News from the Week of July 25, 2016

Here’s another round-up of what we’ve been reading and watching this week, from in the news and around the web:

Islamophobic rhetoric has been on the rise in 2016, with some politicians and public figures calling for bans on Muslims entering the United States and even the religious testing of Muslim Americans. After Newt Gingrich made similar comments, our very own Scott Cooper, wrote in The Hill: “I served alongside Muslims and Jews and Christians and nonreligious men and women. We shared a common belief in the greatness of a country that cherishes diversity, protects religious freedom, and champions equality and openness. That’s the country we were honored to serve, and that others were eager to help.”

Other military veterans are right there with him. Retired Marine and VFAI leader Emir Hadzic, penned a thoughtful analysis of how anti-Muslim sentiment clashes with American values. Hadzic should know. As a Bosnian Muslim refugee, he found welcome in the United States. So much so that he was inspired to give back, joining the U.S. Marine Corps and completing eight deployments overseas. He writes, “I defended both a place called America and an idea called America. I respectfully urge our nation's political leaders to do the same.”

Welcoming refugees is not only a continuation of the ideals that make America great, but it also makes economic sense. Louisville, Kentucky NPR affiliate WFPL reports on a new study that finds refugees fare well in the United States, on par with other Americans. “These people start small businesses, they’re buying homes,” said a spokesman for the Kentucky Institute of Economic Policy. “When you add refugees, what you’re doing is strengthening your local and state economy.”

The U.N. Refugee Council brings us the story of 1951 Coffee Company, a Bay Area nonprofit that is training refugees to craft one of America’s favorite beverages—and integrating them into the community in the process. Says one Afghan refugee in the program, “I want to own a business, maybe a restaurant, but I have to start somewhere and I’m learning about America’s coffee culture here.”

The economic effect of refugees has also been studied at the international level. In a study from the Open Political Economy Network this year, we see that refugees contribute to market demand, raise GDP, and provide entrepreneurial innovation in host countries. In fact, using numbers provided by the International Monetary Fund, the report shows that every euro spent on refugees nets two euros in economic benefit over the long term.

Finally, we continue to follow the inspirational Refugee Olympic Team as they prepare to compete in the 2016 games and shine a spotlight on the world refugee crisis. But one artist is honoring the memory of a refugee Olympian who won’t be in Rio: Samia Yusuf Omar, a 21-year-old Somali runner who showed heart and determination at the 2008 games that won her fans around the world.

Omar, fleeing her homeland to find a better life and a way to the 2012 games in London, was tragically killed attempting to cross the Mediterranean. You can read her story in the graphic novel An Olympic Dream: The story of Samia Yusuf Omar—a timely reminder of the perseverance many refugees show through unspeakable hardship. More than 11,000 refugees have died in the Mediterranean since Samia’s dream was cut short. This year, watch the refugee team as they honor her memory and the plight of the millions of refugees living in the world today.