Just back from a fact-finding trip to the Middle East, Rep. Mike Pompeo cautioned Friday against equating Islam with terrorism.
In a speech to the Republican Pachyderm Club, Pompeo drew a bright line between the religion of Islam and Islamic-toned extremism practiced by terrorist groups such as ISIS, which was behind the recent deadly attacks in Paris and Beirut.
“You don’t find many Thomas Jeffersons over there,” Pompeo said. “Once you accept that … the line needs to be drawn between those who are on the side of extremism and those who are fighting against them, of whatever faith we may find them.”
“There are many Muslims of good will and despise this extremism as much as anyone of any other faith,” Pompeo said after the Pachyderm luncheon meeting.
Pompeo said 11 days ago, he was in the Bekaa Valley in east Lebanon, near the border of war-torn Syria.
He said he met with refugees who fled the fighting and leaders of Muslim and Christian factions fighting against ISIS.
Pompeo said he’s not opposed to settling Muslim refugees in the United States. But he has deep security concerns over the quality of information that can be found to separate legitimate refugees from ISIS agents who might pose as displaced persons to get into the United States and carry out terrorist attacks.
Pompeo voted Thursday in favor of a bill in Congress to pause the flow of refugees to America until the FBI can certify that individual refugees are no security threat.
President Obama has proposed to allow 10,000 refugees fleeing ISIS to settle in the United States and his administration says the no-threat certification is an impossible standard. The president has said he’ll veto the bill if it gets through the Senate.
Pompeo acknowledged that no vetting process can be perfect and that “no security threat” is an unrealistic standard.
“It may use that word, but what it means is it reverts to some language that had been used previously that gets you to a higher standard,” Pompeo said. “You can’t get perfection, certainly the bill did not require perfection.”
He said the best option would be to help feed and house refugees temporarily in countries neighboring Syria, while dealing with the ISIS threat so they can go home.
In Lebanon, “We had a chance to meet with half a dozen families, all Syrian, no Christians in any of the places that we went,” Pompeo said. “And they didn’t want to come to Kansas, they wanted to stay where they were. They wanted to go back to their country.”