Richard Branson pleads for tolerance after Paris terror attacks

Branson: U.S. should help Syrian refugees
Branson: U.S. should help Syrian refugees

"Openness and tolerance are our strongest forces."

Virgin Atlantic founder Richard Branson urged that message on Tuesday in an op-ed in which he addressed the spate of U.S. governors who have stated they won't admit Syrian refugees into their states.

The governors' response came after Friday's terror attacks in Paris and the revelation that one of the attackers may have entered Europe along with many Syrian refugees fleeing their country.

"I understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens from violence and terror," Branson wrote on the Virgin website. "But to impose collective punishment on tens of thousands in their moment of greatest despair, in false hope it might stop a determined few, may well be counterproductive. And it is profoundly inhumane."

Branson compared the anti-refugee response to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

He also noted that some of the governors, such as Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, are "themselves children of refugees."

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"[W]elcoming the downtrodden, the disadvantaged, and the despondent with open arms has been one of the most enduring and positive chapters of the American narrative; and it has helped the country move from strength to strength -- culturally, politically, and economically," Branson wrote.

In the course of the op-ed, he also condemned the idea of a "faith-based immigration policy," which some had proposed. Some conservatives have suggested that only Christian refugees be admitted.

"Closing the gates... will engender precisely the types of divisions that terror groups like ISIS seek to exploit," he wrote. "The more we segregate, pigeonhole and label, the more they gain, as it reinforces their twisted worldview and strengthens recruitment into their ranks."

Branson ended his op-ed with an appeal to people to have "understanding, kindness and love" for the "wonderful people" who are fleeing Syria in pursuit of a better life.

"Syria may be today's heart of darkness, but its wonderful people have the same dreams, goals and aspirations as most of us," Branson said.

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