The Corner

Politics & Policy

Thoughts on Trump’s ‘Islam Hates Us’ Remarks (2 of 2)

My only minor quarrel with what Donald Trump said regarding Islamic “hatred” for the West (see the prior post) involves his assertion that it is “hard to tell who’s who” – i.e., to sort out anti-Western from pro-Western Muslims.

Trump is right in the sense that (a) the American tradition frowns on examining people about their religious beliefs (or even on whether beliefs that they regard as “religious” necessarily are), and (b) even if we conducted such examinations, respondents who are hostile to us can always lie about their true sentiments. Nevertheless, sharia (Islamic law) is useful here.

Sharia is antithetical to Western principles and American constitutional law in fundamental ways. (I have addressed this many times, see, e.g., here.) A Muslim who is overtly sharia-adherent and believes sharia should be adopted as the law of the land is highly likely to be hostile to Western culture. A Muslim who is not overtly sharia-adherent and who does not favor its imposition as governing law is very likely to be pro-Western. (See, e.g., my 2011 column on the “Mapping Sharia” study.)

I am not as sheepish as Republicans tend to be about the propriety of examining the sharia adherence of Muslim aliens who want to enter the United States. The vast majority of sharia seeks to control matters we in the West regard as the province of civil and criminal law, not religious belief. Plus, even if sharia were mainly about religious belief, aliens who want to enter our country have no First Amendment right against questioning by our government.

I’m also not as pessimistic as many commentators about the potential effectiveness of such examinations. To those who say the respondents will lie, I say (a) government interrogators are trained to detect lying; (b) the government is often able to prove lying beyond a reasonable doubt even when the government bears the burden of proof and the person accused of lying is presumed innocent; and (c) we are dealing here with the opposite situation: The burden is on the alien to prove he merits entry into our country, there is no presumption of innocence, and the government does not need a reason to keep a suspected threat out, much less bear a burden of proving that its suspicions are valid. If the government suspects a Muslim alien is lying or is otherwise a threat, the alien should be denied entry, period.

Let’s assume for the sake of argument, though, that I am wrong and that it really is impossible to distinguish anti-Western from pro-Western Muslims in alien populations that have no right to enter the United States. If that is the case, then it is irresponsible to permit Muslim immigration from the Middle East. To conclude otherwise is to say we are required to welcome into our country an alien population highly likely to be hostile to our culture, despite the facts that (a) a certain small percentage of them is highly likely to engage in terrorism, and (b) the anti-Western hostility of the alien population is highly likely to breed a terrorist element.

To sum up, Donald Trump is correct that hatred for the United States is pervasive in Muslim populations. And while he appeared to accept Anderson Cooper’s distinction between Islam and “radical” Islam – a distinction I believe is justified when it comes to violent jihadism but not antipathy for the West – Trump rightly observed that it is difficult to sort the “radicals” out from other Muslims. This is a major practical problem when grappling with Muslim immigration. Contrary to Trump, I believe distinguishing anti-Western Muslims from pro-Western Muslims would not be that difficult if we examined the degree to which aliens seeking entry are sharia-adherent. Many would disagree with me on that, but they offer no alternative means of vetting. Without vetting, we are left with two choices: Pretend that Islam is not pervasively anti-Western, do not take it into consideration in immigration decisions, and accept the massive influx of Middle Eastern Muslims; or accept that Islam is pervasively anti-Western and drastically restrict Muslim immigration, particularly from Islamic countries.

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