Connecticut Governor Honored for Welcoming Syrian Refugees

Fatema (L), her husband Abdullah (C), and their five-year-old son Ayham (2nd L), a Syrian refugee family resettled in Connecticut, pose with Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy (2nd R) and Jack Schlossberg, grandson of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, during the annual Profile in Courage Awards ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston, Massachusetts May 1. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

By Ted and Siefer

BOSTON, May 2 – Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy was honored on Sunday by the family of John F. Kennedy for embracing Syrian refugees at a time when other U.S. leaders sought to turn them away.

The Democratic governor was presented the Profile In Courage award at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston, alongside the Syrian family he personally welcomed to his state.

Malloy invited the refugee family to settle in Connecticut a week after the November 13 attack by Islamic militants that killed 130 people in Paris. At least one of the attackers is believed to have held a Syrian passport, although the authenticity of the document has been questioned.

The attack prompted governors in more than half the U.S. states to oppose the settlement of Syrian refugees. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called for a complete ban on Muslims entering the country.

“When I saw that, I decided to raise my voice and to make clear that not all Americans think all people should be barred at the door because of religion or from where they come,” Malloy said in his speech. “I accept this tremendous award on behalf of the good people of this nation who said, ‘Not in our land.'”

It was the first public event attended by the refugee family – a mother, husband and five-year-old son. In a halting speech in English, the mother, Fatema, thanked Malloy and the United States.

“This country is our future. We love this country. We will work to defend it and improve it,” said Fatema, who wore a headscarf.

The family’s surname was withheld because of concerns about the safety of their relatives in Syria.

Fatema acknowledged that the family had received a less friendly reception from some people, whom she said had formed the wrong idea about Muslims based on the attacks in Paris, San Bernardino, California and elsewhere.

“I tell them that those people … are not bad Muslims; they are not Muslim at all,” she said.

Since the family’s arrival, about 75 Syrian refugees have been settled in Connecticut, with another 250 slated to arrive, Malloy said.

U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura has said up to 400,000 people have been killed as a result of the Syrian civil war and the U.N puts the number of Syrian refugees abroad at 5.8 million.

President Barack Obama said on Thursday he expected the United States would meet a goal to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees before the end of the 2016 fiscal year, despite delays and opposition from critics concerned about security implications.

The State Department reported on March 31, halfway into the fiscal year, only 1,285 Syrians had been admitted into the United States.

Malloy received the award from John Schlossberg, the grandson of the late president Kennedy.

“Whether Irish or Chinese, Jewish, Japanese or Latino, our newest neighbors have all too often been greeted by a chorus of ignorance,” Schlossberg said.

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