In a speech Monday closing the G20 summit in Turkey, President Obama criticized the Republican presidential candidates who have said they want to close U.S. borders to Syrian refugees, unless they are Christian.
"When I hear folks say that maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims, when I hear political leaders suggesting there should be a religious test for which a person fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted... that's shameful. That's not American. That's not who we are," he said.
Both Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz heralded this point of view over the weekend. Cruz said Muslim refugees from Syria should be barred, but Christians are OK. "There is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror," he said in an interview.
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On CNN Sunday, Bush said that with careful screening, the U.S. could take a limited number of Christian refugees from Syria. "We should focus our efforts as it relates to the Christians that are being slaughtered," he said.
Other Republican presidential candidates, including Sen. Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, and Gov. Bobby Jindal, said over the weekend the U.S. should close its borders to all refugees from Syria in light of the attacks in Paris. Donald Trump went so far as to say he would consider shuttering the mosques in America.
But Obama reserved his rhetorical ire for religious persecution, calling on political leaders to not fall into that trap after tragedy. Obama even used former President George W. Bush's response after 9/11 as an example of the right impulse. "[Bush] was adamant and clear about the fact that this is not a war on Islam," Obama said. "That's what separates us from them... we don't feed that kind of notion that somehow Christians and Muslims are at war. If we want to be successful defeating ISIL that's a good place to start, by not promoting that kind of ideology," he said.
It is believed that one of the attackers involved in the Paris attacks that killed 129 people Friday entered Europe as a Syrian refugee.
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