Since the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Islamic radicalization has been the focus of much attention. In the last month alone the world has experienced multiple terror attacks conducted on a global scale with no apparent end in sight. We therefore take terrorism with all due seriousness. Radical jihad is an evil that must be contained; a monster that must be destroyed. Thus, terrorist should be treated with extreme prejudice.
However, radicalization is a process that it is not limited to immigrants. For multiple reasons, including the attack on 9/11 and the irreversible “browning of America”, a large segment of our society has been radicalized. Witness the presidential campaign, specifically Donald J. Trump who recently called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
As to be expected reaction to the “Trump Doctrine” has been swift and largely critical. The British Prime Minister labeled him “divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong.” The French equivalent accused “Mr. Trump of fueling hatred and pushing young people towards the Islamic State.” And Ted Koppel called Trump the number one ISIS recruiter.
To their credit, members of the GOP were among the first to condemn both Trump and his proposal. Republican Dave Jolly of Florida called on Mr. Trump to withdraw from the race.
But the most futile reaction comes from those who again questioned whether Trump has gone too far? While relevant, the question misses the point.
Donald Trump crossed the bridge to “Crazy Town” a long time ago. And while we appreciate the importance of keeping us safe as well as the danger of radical Islam, applying a religious test to immigration is problematic for a host of reasons.
First, it runs afoul of the Constitution and cherished American values. These include but are not limited to the principle that “all men are created equal”, the concepts of religious freedom and liberty, the First Amendment mandate that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”, and the inscription on the Statute of Liberty, “give us your poor and huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Theoretically, there are some Muslims yearning to breathe free.
Moreover, the ban requires neither improper conduct nor probable cause. It instead punishes status. All that is necessary is to be a Muslim; to hold the wrong religious belief. And it is significant that many Muslims like those of any other creed are non-practicing members of their faith.
Next, the ban is unenforceable. Unlike gender, race or skin color, creed is neither an obvious physical feature nor immutable characteristic. Absent some outward manifestation or declaration, religious belief can only be inferred. Hence, the ban would inevitably result in invidious discrimination based on race, color, ethnicity, culture and national origin. Only those who looked Muslim would be denied entry.
It is also unclear whether the ban would apply to Islamic diplomats. Would foreign Muslims who are already here be rounded up, deported and/or placed in Internment Camps like Japanese Americans of WWII. And what does it mean “at least until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on?” How and when will this standard be achieved?
It is strange that this religious test comes from one who claims to be a Constitutionalist, and who has significant business interest in Muslim countries. Even more strange is the fact that two of Trump’s three wives are immigrants.
Yet, Trump remains more popular with the GOP base than ever. A recent Bloomberg poll shows that 65% of Republican primary voters back Trumps plan to bar Muslims from the US. http://hotair.com/archives/2015/12/09/bloomberg-poll-64-of-republican-likely-primary-voters-favor-trumps-plan-to-bar-muslim. See also “Bring it on Trump, Faithful Welcome Ban on Muslims Entering America”, http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/dec/08/bring-it-on-donald-trump-faithful-welcome-ban-on-muslims-entering-america.
And according to a December 9, 2015, article appearing in the USA Today, entitled “New Attacks on US Muslims,” anti Muslim attacks are on the rise since the San Bernardino shooting. Recent comments by Donald Trump can m only make it worse.
But more important than the ban are the reasons for its popularity. As counterintuitive as it might sound, the Trump candidacy is not about Donald Trump. It is instead about the paranoia, delusion and irrationality of those who follow him. It is about the mania of those who distrust their own party, hate their own government and despise any with whom they disagree. For those who are radicalized, “going too far”simply does not exist.
Trump could call for the assassination of the President, the suspension of the Bill of Rights and the violent overthrow of the government and his standing with a large swath of GOP primary voters would still rise. The crazier he talks; the more inane and irresponsible his comments, the more they like him. And each incident whether domestic or foreign serves only to radicalize them even further. This is the danger of radicalization.
It took but one spark to ignite World War I, i.e., the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary. Seven million civilians alone died during the conflict. The Second World War was but a continuation of the first with a brief 20 year intermission. The Jewish Holocaust and the death of 11 million civilians was the consequence of this conflagration.
We cannot defeat terror by adopting terror. The pursuit of justice does not justify the abandonment thereof. The world may well survive a radicalized ISIS. But it cannot survive a radicalized America.
Leo Barron Hicks, President and Founder
Blackacre Policy Forum