Events such as Brexit and increasing terrorist attacks continue to underscore that immigration from majority-Muslim countries will continue to be a dominant political question, yet pundits and politicians continue to treat this concern as impossible to resolve at best, and xenophobic at worst.
On “Special Report with Bret Baier” a couple of months ago, Steven Hayes was appalled and contemptuous at the idea that the United States could apply a religious test to immigrants.
Hayes was not alone. It seems to be a tenet of establishment conservatives that applying a religious test is beyond the pale, especially for Muslims. House Speaker Paul Ryan has said, as written up by Micky Kaus, “Ryan made a point of praising ‘Muslims, the vast, vast, vast, vast majority of whom are peaceful, who believe in pluralism and freedom and democracy and individual rights.’” The entire quote is available at the Washington Post.
Islam Is a Political Movement
This shows a stunning naiveté. Islam is far more than just a religion. It is also a political movement with strict rules for how society should be governed. In Islam, there is no separation of church and state, which has implications for our system of government. The Pew Center on Religion and Public Life conducted a face-to-face survey of 38,000 Muslims around the world that found “Overwhelming percentages of Muslims in many countries want Islamic law (Sharia) to be the official law of the land…”
Sharia is a system of governance that strictly limits the rights of women, uses draconian punishments for crime (such as cutting off the hands of thieves), and applies the death penalty for homosexuality, rejecting Islam, and a host of other offenses. None of these laws are compatible with the American Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Now, the survey suggests caveats aplenty. Muslims in former Communist countries are not so supportive, and Muslims in some secularized countries like Turkey are less likely to support sharia. There are differences of opinion on whether sharia should be applied to criminal cases, or just to family and property disputes. And some significant countries like Syrian and Somalia were not surveyed.
Ryan may be right that some Muslims support pluralism, freedom, democracy, and individual rights, but it is hardly a “vast, vast, vast majority.” In fact it is likely a tiny, tiny, tiny minority.
Perhaps the Muslims Ryan has met agree with his standards, but if he has met only assimilated American Muslims, his sample is badly skewed. Also, these are not the people Trump has been talking about. Trump is referring to migrants from many of the countries Pew surveyed. Pew notes that “enshrining sharia as official law is particularly high in some countries with predominantly Muslim populations, such as Afghanistan (99%) and Iraq (91%).”
This means more than 90 percent of potential immigrants from these two countries favor making sharia the law of the land. It would be foolish to think that view will change as soon as they land at JFK. Allowing large numbers of immigrants from those countries into the United States would mean importing a population that has no affection for Western jurisprudence, and in fact is committed to overthrowing it.
We Don’t Need a Religious Test to Bar Immigrants from Certain Countries
This is not primarily a religious issue, but a political one. No country is required to allow entry for people who are committed to overthrowing it. We have faced this situation before with Communism. Members of the Communist or other “totalitarian” parties were not allowed to come into this country.
Generally, membership in the Communist Party is a bar to immigration to the United States. According to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) §212(a)(3)(D)(i), any immigrant who is or has been a member of or affiliated with the Communist or any other totalitarian party, domestic or foreign, is inadmissible.
Some exceptions were made for people forced to join the Party to get a job, or young people who joined as teens, but the general rule was absolute. Communists wanted to overthrow the United States, so were not allowed to come here.
Importantly, the great majority of Islamic sharia supporters surveyed do not support violence. The Pew survey reports:
In most countries where the question was asked, roughly three-quarters or more Muslims reject suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilians. And in most countries, the prevailing view is that such acts are never justified as a means of defending Islam from its enemies. Yet there are some countries in which substantial minorities think violence against civilians is at least sometimes justified. This view is particularly widespread among Muslims in the Palestinian territories (40%), Afghanistan (39%), Egypt (29%) and Bangladesh (26%).
But is that the standard for admission to America? Most Communist Party members were not going to commit violence, either, but they were dedicated to the overthrow of the American system.
Now, much of the media are reporting Trump’s stance has softened. He recently said his idea to ban Muslim immigration was just a suggestion. But it was never more than that—an idea, a proposal, a suggestion. It may be hard to remember in these days of diktats from the White House, but that is how laws are supposed to be made in the United States: someone has an idea, gives it voice, and it is then criticized and debated until some critical mass of people agree or disagree with it.
Trump has also revised his position to focus on immigrants from “terrorist nations,” but that revision misses that many Muslims in European nations are passionate advocates of Sharia. His original stance, that we should apply the ban “until we can figure out what’s going on,” actually makes more sense. Part of that “figuring out” should be a change in the focus from Islam as a religion, to sharia as a political philosophy.
How to make that distinction is a challenge. Obviously the starting place must be examining the beliefs of Muslims. Not all Muslims support enshrining sharia law, but it is doubtful that any non-Muslims do. So if you are looking to prohibit sharia advocates, the Muslim population is a pretty good place to start, especially people from nations with predominantly Muslim populations.
Discernment is not the same as discrimination. We need to be able to discern which applicants for immigration are coming here because they support American values and laws, and which are coming to overthrow those laws. Support for sharia is a pretty good indicator, just as membership in the Communist Party was a good indicator during the Cold War. So we need to develop tools that will provide that information.
Once those tools are in place, the ban can be relaxed. These tools will never be perfect, and some people will slip through the cracks, but it is the height of foolishness to pretend, as Ryan does, that the vast, vast, vast majority of potential Muslim immigrants believe in pluralism, freedom, democracy, and individual rights. They do not.