Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Time for a Moratorium on Immigration From Muslim Lands?

Unless you've been in a cave, you know that Donald Trump has called for a temporary halt (you wouldn't know it's temporary from most headlines) to immigration of Muslims, though the details, as usual for Trump, aren't very clear.

How about that proposal?  What is wrong with a temporary halt?  There are of course questions of international law no doubt, but what if anything would be wrong with a temporary halt in immigration from predominantly Muslim nations?  Can Americans not even have a reasonable debate about the question?  Why not?

The Maverick on an important question who anticipated Trump several days ago (and then I have follow-up thoughts):

And now San Bernardino.  It is surely 'interesting' that in supposedly conservative media venues such as Fox News there has been no discussion, in the wake of this latest instance of Islamic terrorism, of the obvious question whether immigration from Muslim lands should be put on hold. [TB: Again this was written prior to Trump's remarks]. Instead, time is wasted refuting silly liberal calls for more gun control.  'Interesting' but not surprising.  Political correctness is so pervasive that even conservatives are infected with it.  It is very hard for most of us, including conservatives, to believe that it is Islam itself and not the zealots of some hijacked version thereof that is the problem.  But slowly, and very painfully, people are waking up. But I am not sanguine that only a few more such bloody events will jolt us into alertness.  It will take many more.
So is it not eminently reasonable to call for a moratorium on immigration from Muslim lands?  [TB: This by the way if perfectly legal.] Here are some relevant points.  I would say that they add up to a strong cumulative case argument for a moratorium. 
1. There is no right to immigrate.  See here for some arguments contra the supposed right by Steven A. Camarota.  Here is my refutation of an argument pro.  My astute commenters add further considerations. Since there is no right to immigrate, immigrants are allowed in only if they meet certain criteria.  Surely we are under no obligation to allow in those who would destroy our way of life. 
2.  We philosophers will debate until doomsday about rights and duties and everything else.  But in the meantime, shouldn't  we in our capacity as citizens exercise prudence and advocate that our government exercise prudence?  So even if in the end  there is a right to immigrate, the prudent course would be to suspend this supposed right for the time being until  we get a better fix on what is going on.  Let's see if ISIS is contained or spreads.  Let's observe events in Europe and in Britain.  Let's see if Muslim leaders condemn terrorism.  Let's measure the extent of Muslim assimilation. 
3. "Overwhelming percentages of Muslims in many countries want Islamic law (sharia) to be the official law of the land, according to a worldwide survey by the Pew Research Center." Here.  Now immigrants bring their culture and their values with them.  Most Muslims will bring a commitment to sharia with them.  But sharia is incompatible with our American values and the U. S. Constitution.  Right here we have a very powerful reason to disallow immigration from Muslim lands. 
4.  You will tell me that not all Muslims subscribe to sharia, and you will be right.  But how separate the sheep from the goats?  Do you trust government officials to do the vetting?  Are you not aware that people lie and that the Muslim doctrine of taqiyya justifies lying?  
5.  You will insist that not all Muslims are terrorists, and again you will be right. But almost all the terrorism in the world at the present time comes from Muslims acting upon Muslim beliefs.  Pay attention to the italicized phrase. There are two important related distinctions we need to make.

There's more.  Read the rest.

Is the Maverick right?  The case has some compelling force but more can be said.

Let us first get a couple preliminaries out of the way.  I can imagine the following, knee jerk reaction from some Christians:  "Jesus said love your enemies, the Old Testament prophets said good things about immigrants, therefore, U.S. policy should never restrict Muslims in any way from entering the U.S.!  Islamophobe!  Racist!"  This is about the level of argument I've been seeing recently.  Of course to anyone who has even slept through a critical thinking class it will be noted that the argument is invalid.

Not much better is the claim that Christians are to avoid fear and that Christianity is all about taking risks, therefore... Well, I don't know what follows the "therefore."  Certainly no particular policy proposals which follow cogently simply from Bible verses.  Moving from Bible verses to public policy without any other premises is a recipe for a non-sequitur.

Risk is not one of the theological virtues.  Risk is only good if the risk is prudent, i.e., wise.  It's not wise to give a homeless person a cup of soup if you have to walk your children through a field of landmines; it is manifestly unwise since the risk of death outweighs the benefit of a full belly.  Such examples are legion.  Nor is it always irrational to fear, though no one would fear, or course, in ideal conditions.

However I can also envision a not initially unreasonable response from some Christians.  Muslims are better off converting to Christianity.  Christians, at least, will agree to this (as well as non-Christians who esteem Christianity over Islam).  It might be asked, how better to bring about Muslim converts than by admitting them into the United States where there are lots of Evangelical Christians? Most Muslims appear to be assimilating well enough.  Few are terrorists.  In fact you (Borland!) have recently been posting excerpts from Nabeel Qureshi who converted to Christianity in the United States and whose Muslim parents appear to be fine, upstanding citizens.  In a similar vein, see also Francis Beckwith.

However there are questions worth asking: Are all Muslims going to hell?  (How about their children?)  How likely is Muslim conversion to Christianity in the U.S. now and in the future?  Would one be throwing pearls to swine or to sheep?  I don't know, I'm just asking.  It certainly seems less likely the more Muslims immigrate at a time: birds of a feather flock together.  If the epistemic probability of conversion is quite low, but the probability higher that an equal number of "non-saved" will be killed than those converted at this time, is it reasonable to think that refraining from a temporary moratorium is worth it? As I see it, it would not.  For based only on "souls saved" the cost would outweigh the benefit.  Not only is it bad that the "non-saved" are lost, it is bad for Muslims to kill innocents.  So it seems to be manifestly unreasonable never to suspend entry from Muslim lands if there is not reason to think that the costs outweigh the benefits for all concerned, those concerned including future generations of Americans who are not now able to weigh in on public policy.

Jesus' ethics is an ethics of love.  Christians no doubt have duties of love.  Christians are to be neighbors to those who are persecuted, to refugees in war-torn lands, as well as to their neighbors of proximity.  As such there is reason to lend assistance, for example, to Syrian refugees.  Such assistance could come in many forms, acceptance of refugees into the U.S. being one of those; monetary benefits another; relocation to other countries yet another.  Moreover, Christians in the U.S. have duties as well to U.S. citizens and future citizens down the line who have yet to born.  It does not follow from the fact that Christians have a duty to love their neighbors that they should advocate, for instance, for open borders as some Libertarians and Democrats suggest.  Nor does it follow straightaway that there should be a moratorium on taking in people from certain Muslim majority countries.  Wisdom requires looking at the available data and using it to make the best decisions we can in the midst of competing ideologies and factions in our democratic country--taking into account the concerns of many.

A few other questions: Do sovereigns of a country have a right to control immigration?  Do they have a right of refusal?  (Open borders?) Are you for a Christian theocracy?  Or do you think that Christianity instead should compel one to support a representative democracy?  Is Islam in its various manifestations compatible with a representative democracy?  Which variations are compatible?  Is Islam logically compatible, but does it tend towards theocracy or some other type of government?  Is there a reasonable cap to the number of Muslim immigrants a western democracy could withstand without political upheaval and social turmoil?  Would a political revolution be a good thing?

Some Christians suggest that it would.  Christianity thrives under persecution, they say.  But must it?   Surely Christianity would thrive in heaven where there is no persecution.  Surely Christianity does not need persecution in order to thrive, and surely it is preferable to thrive and not be persecuted.  Did Christianity thrive in the communist Soviet Union?  Has it in Muslim dominated countries?  In India?  Has it sometimes thrived where there is little persecution?  Will it thrive in a future United States under radically different conditions in the future?  Are such questions open for discussion?  The left loves to call for "conversations."  Are we allowed to have one about this?

Some future predictions are dire, especially for Europe.  Are such predictions right?  Can they not at least be entertained, discussed by reasonable people, and debated?
I leave you with Matthew Bracken. Hopefully he's wrong.  Excerpt:

Islam is similar to a self-replicating supercomputer virus. It is a hydra-headed monster, designed by its creators to be an unstoppable formula for global conquest. It’s almost impossible to eradicate, because it has no central brain or control center. Islam is like a starfish: when you cut off a limb, another grows to replace it. The names of the Muslim leaders, and the names of their Islamic groups, are transitory and ultimately unimportant. Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda are succeeded by Al-Baghdadi and the Islamic State, but they will all pass from the scene and be replaced by others. While Muslim leaders and regimes have come and gone, Islam itself has remained steadfastly at war with the non-Muslim world for 1,400 years.
Islam does not recognize secular national boundaries. To devout Muslims, there are only two significant realms of the world. First is the Dar al-Islam — the House of Islam, which is the land of the believers. The other is the Dar al-Harb — the House of War, which must be made Islamic by any means, including violent jihad. The expansion of Islam is sometimes held in check for long periods, but more often Islam is on the march, acquiring new territory. Once conquered by Islam, territory is rarely taken back, Spain being a notable exception.
The Muslim world produces almost no books or new inventions. Short of finding oil under their feet, most Islamic nations are backward and impoverished. So wherein lies the power source for Islam’s nearly constant expansion over the past fourteen centuries? The motor and the battery of Islam are the Koran and the Hadith, or sayings of Mohammed. A messianic Mahdi, Caliph or Ayatollah with sufficient charisma can accelerate Islam’s pace of conquest, but individual men are not the driving force.
Secular “Muslim in name only” strongmen from Saddam Hussein to Muamar Qadafi can hold Islamism in check for a period with brutal methods, but strongmen are often assassinated or otherwise removed from power, and in any event, they cannot live forever. Once the secular strongmen are gone, fanatical mullahs are able to stir their zealous Muslim followers into sufficient ardor to reinstall a radical Islamist regime under Sharia Law, according to the Koran.
This pattern of secular strongmen being followed by fanatical Islamist leaders has recurred many times over the past millennium and longer. Do not be fooled by modernists like King Abdullah of Jordan. To the true believer of Islam, any king or strongman is never more than a rifle shot or grenade toss away from being kinetically deposed, and replaced by another Islamist fanatic.
The persistent virulence of Mohammed’s 7th Century plan for global domination means that it is always ready to erupt in a fresh outbreak. Islam is like a brushfire or ringworm infection: it is dead and barren within the ring, but flares up where it parasitically feeds off the healthy non-Islamic societies around it. What produces this uniquely fanatical motivation, from within nations and peoples that otherwise seem devoid of energy and new ideas?
Going into 2016, I believe that Europe is primed to become the central theater of a third world war. Like an overstrained zipper suddenly failing and bursting open from end to end, the European conflagration could well reignite simmering conflicts from the Ukraine to the Persian Gulf, due to interlocking alliances (NATO, including Turkey, vs. Russia), and the Sunni-Shia divide (Iran vs. Saudi Arabia, which has been imported into Europe).
Yes, World War Three. But why now?
The rest of the story


  1. I suppose a lot of people think it is downright "un-American" to deny people based on the fact that they are Muslims because we are a country founded on religious liberty. One of the primary reasons for coming to America is to escape religious persecution, and we've never barred people of a religion whole-hog before (at least, not that I'm aware of).

    I'm not trying to make any kind of an argument, I'm just exploring why people are so opposed to exploring these questions, and I think what I say is part of it. We are taught in public schools that part of our founding ethos was that we welcome all religions to come and join, and you can practice however you want once we get here. To bar Muslims might be thought to threaten a core value.

  2. But how many on the left are really concerned about being "un-American"? Obama wants to "fundamentally change America." America is Big-Capitalism, exploiting the workers. Middle East unrest, who caused that? America and its oil barons. If I thought there was serious patriotism on the left I'd buy it; but I don't. It seems to me that the business about being "un-American" is rhetoric meant to catch those who are on the fence and do care about religious liberty. The left cares about religious liberty mostly as an extension of caring about equality (per se) and the underdog.

  3. That's right about the left. But I've seen a lot of right leaning people really respond negatively to the suggestion that we deny people entry based on religion.