The Muslim Ban Is Not Serious
Dear Ms. Ma,
I write in regards to your recent article which appeared in the National Interest, entitled “Trump’s Temporary Muslim Ban Shows He’s Serious about Defeating Radical Islam.” You have quite a distinguished record in the public eye, so I’m surprised to see you take this position.
Before we can even address your backwards arguments that a ban is the way to go, we must first address important Constitutional questions. Trump has called for a pause on Muslims entering the United States until we can “figure out what’s going on.” Trump hasn’t outlined specifics for how this policy would operate, nor has he indicated how long this period of “figuring out what’s going on” might last.
The Supreme Court has developed careful methods for evaluating religious liberty claims brought under the Establishment Clause. Most common is the Lemon Test, developed in Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971), which has three prongs:
The statute must have secular legislative purpose
The principal nor primary effect of the legislation statute must not advance nor inhibit religious practice
The statute must not result in “excessive government entanglement” with religious affairs.
If the statute violates any of these prongs, then there is a violation of the establishment clause. Applying the Lemon Test to Trump’s Muslim ban, we see that it instantly fails prong two, and potentially prongs one and three as well.
While policy specifics might be helpful in determining exactly how egregiously Trump’s ban fails the Lemon Test, we know enough from what he has already said.
The primary effect of the Muslim Ban certainly inhibits religious practice. At some point during the immigration process, Muslims would be screened and excluded from entering the country. This exclusion would be based only on whether or not they are Muslim, while allowing every other religion to continue freely. The state would be deliberately targeting and punishing Muslim individuals for their beliefs. It’s hard to imagine a more textbook case of religious inhibition that violates the Lemon Test.
A strong case can be made that Trump’s Muslim ban violates the other two prongs of the Lemon Test as well. Screening every person who enters the country for religious preferences would be a massive undertaking. Once a Muslim is identified, presumably there would need to be another process for removing them, doubtless also a massive undertaking. These tasks, as well as other unforeseen consequences of implementing a Muslim ban, certainly constitute excessive government entanglement with religion.
The Muslim ban may or may not have secular legislative purpose; I will put that aside for now since it will get us nowhere to debate the “intent” of the law while much more serious questions remain.
This should be the end of any conversation about a Muslim ban, but I will go on to address the specific points you raise in your article.
You cite Sharia law as an example of why Islam cannot be a “peace loving religion,” and a poll conducted by the Center of Security Policy to illustrate that American Muslims present a threat to the homeland.
Depending on which source you use, there are between 2.8 and 3.3 million Muslims in the United States. A survey with only 600 respondents can hardly purport to be representative of over 3 million people, especially when only 67% of the respondents were actually Muslim. Furthermore, the ban wouldn’t even apply to these people since, according to Trump, Muslims already in the US “would be different”. That alone should discredit its use as a serious source, but since the pillar of your argument is based on Muslims being inherently violent I will address it.
The pole’s specific questions regarding violence are most relevant here. You correctly cite that 25% respondents agree that, “Violence against Americans here in the United States can be justified as part of the global jihad.” Also revealing is that 19% agreed with the statement “The use of violence in the United States is justified to make shariah the law of the land.” Furthermore, 24% believe that “it is legitimate to use violence to punish those who give offense to Islam…”
While seemingly alarming, these numbers require context to be understood. I’m sure you are familiar with the Ku Klux Klan (“the Klan”), considered a right wing extremist organization that has “reared it’s ugly head in America” on three separate occasions.
The first Klan (1865-1870s) attempted to overthrow state governments following the civil war by assassinating black leaders until it was disbanded through federal enforcement. The second Klan (1915-1925) expanded their murderous efforts to include Catholics, Jews, and immigrants. “The Klan...was not just an order to defend America but also a campaign to protect and celebrate protestantism. It was a religious order,” says Kelly J. Baker, author of Gospel According to the Klan: The KKK’s Appeal To Protestant America, 1915-1930. At the height of its power some estimate that there were 6,000,000 members of the Klan, which equates to over 15% of the eligible population. Their campaign of terror was highlighted by lynchings, arson, brutal killings and massacres, all in the name of purifying America and establishing white anglo-saxon protestant domination.
The final incarnation of the Klan began in the 1970s and continues today. Though not nearly as strong in numbers as the early 20th century, their crimes are just as horrifying. Beginning with resistance against federal orders to desegregate, contemporary Klansmen soon took up the mantle of terrorist operations where their brothers left off. The usual lynchings and massacres were augmented by targeted bombings of black churches. Alliances with other white supremacist groups, such as the neo-nazi movement, began to take hold as well.
The 1920 presidential elections were held at time when 15% of the population were openly committing terrorist atrocities. If ever there was a time to be worried about extremism, it was certainly during the second Klan. Yet there were no calls from Warren G. Harding during the 1920 election for a pause on Christian immigration to the United States until we can “figure out what the hell is going on.”
In fact, there has never been a call for pausing Christian immigration even though terrorist cells like the KKK have always operated quite openly in the United States.
So what, you ask? The Klan is a fringe group rejected by mainstream commentators. Islam and shariah represent institutionalized hatred for America, and resort to violence against those who offend their religion. That makes Muslims here at home much more of threat than Christians or other extremist religions.
Actually, the facts indicate otherwise. American Muslims do not seem to carry with them the deep seeded hatred of peace which you argue is systemic within Islam. If we look at the ten most deadly shootings in US history, it is quite revealing:
Orlando, FL (2016)--Omar Mateen, Muslim
Blackburg, VA (2007)--Seung-Hui Cho, Christian
Newtown, CT (2012)--Adam Lanza, Religion unknown
San Bernadino (2015)--Syed Farook & Tashfeen Malik, Muslim
Binghamton, NY (2009)--Jiverly Wong, Religion unknown
Killeen, TX (2009)--Nidal Hasan, Muslim
Aurora, CO (2012)--James Holmes, Religion unknown
Washington Navy Yard (2013)--Aaron Alexis, Buddhist
Charleston, SC (2015)--Dylann Roof, Christian
Roseburg, Oregon (2015)--Christopher Sean Harper-Mercer, Christian
It would be hard, based on this list, to make the argument that Islam is an inherently violent religion where the others are not.
Your article spends a lot of time accusing leaders of having their heads “buried in the sand.” You proclaim that Trump, alone, understands the threat posed by radical Islam and his Muslim ban shows that. Obviously you didn’t bother to check the Constitution while writing, or the facts on religious extremism in the US. If Islam isn’t a religion of peace, neither or Christianity or Judaism.
Trump’s Muslim ban actually shows how not serious he is about defeating radical Islam. His lack of grasp of the issue, as well as the Constitution, is astounding. Unfortunately your article shows you are right in the same camp. If you want to make a real case for the Muslim ban, I’m all ears. Until that day, the rest of us will carry on looking for serious ways to deal with violence and extremism.