Donald Trump has apparently told Greta Van Susteran of Fox News that he would allow Muslim servicepeople to return home. This would alleviate some of the concerns regarding American citizenship if extended to all American citizens; it does not fully alleviate concerns about the undermining of the intelligence apparatus, or the failure to differentiate between religious profiling and a religious ban. It's clear that Trump's team doesn't really understand that latter difference, given their open statement today that they will simply ask people if they're Muslim, and then do nothing if they lie.
Donald Trump is losing in Iowa.
That can mean only one thing: it’s time to trot out a headline-grabbing, nonsensical policy proposal.
To that end, Trump released a statement today calling for a ban on entry to the country for all Muslims. He said this would include Muslim servicepeople serving overseas, as well as Americans traveling abroad. He did not create a timetable, or a list of requirements to be met at which point such a ban would be lifted. Instead, he explained, “Without looking at the various polling data, it is obvious to anybody the hatred [of Americans by members of the Muslim world] is beyond comprehension. Where this hatred comes from and why we will have to determine. Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it faces, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life.”
Asked about what prompted the statement, Trump said simply, “death.”
In other words, Trump believes the only way to stop terror attacks like those that happened in San Bernardino would be to ban Muslims from entering the country. That’s idiotic, for at least three reasons.
American Citizens Have Citizenship. Trump is not referring only to foreign Muslims. He says his ban applies to “everyone.” If that’s the case, why would he quash the rights of millions of Muslim Americans, many of whom serve in the police and armed services? How would he propose to take away rights without due process? And why in the world would he? This is truly frightening and disgusting stuff. Up until now, it's been the left calling for Americans to give up their rights. Not anymore.
There Is A Difference Between Profiling And A Religious Ban. Looking at religious practice as one component of Islamic terrorism makes sense, given the association between religious practice and Islamic terror. But Islamic practice is necessary, not sufficient, for Islamic terrorism – in other words, there are lots of Muslims who aren’t terrorists, obviously. Being Muslim should not be an outright disqualifier for entering the country if we are actually capable of vetting you. That’s why Ted Cruz’s suggestion of a moratorium on Muslim immigration from countries like Syria makes sense, but Trump’s global ban makes no sense. Our security services will have to be much better than a total Muslim ban if we hope to keep Americans safe anyway, considering the threat of homegrown terrorism – we’ll have to discriminate between Muslims who are a threat, and those that aren’t. There are a billion Muslims on planet earth. Banning all of them is simply impractical, as well as immoral.
Kiss Our Intelligence Apparatus Goodnight. We need to work with Muslims both foreign and domestic. It’s one thing to label Islamic terrorism and radical Islam a problem. It’s another to label all individual Muslims a problem. That’s what this policy does. It’s factually wrong and ethically incomprehensible. Donald Trump has just transformed into the strawman President Obama abused on Sunday night.
So no, this isn’t a good idea. It’s a rotten idea all the way around: legally, ethically, practically. Trump’s supporters need to realize at some point that knee-jerk extreme reactions to events of the day don’t substitute for good judgment. It’s ugly when it’s President Obama looking to grab guns from American citizens without due process, and it’s ugly from Donald Trump. Given the poll numbers, it’s not clear whether Americans will get wise to that truth.