Contrary to numerous optimistic assurances from high places, three years after September 11, the reach and operational capability of Islamic terror cells remain strong. They are present in areas previously closed to the recruiters of future “martyrs”—notably in Iraq—and in countries where, only a decade ago, they did not have a significant presence (e.g., Indonesia). The United States has been temporarily spared fresh outrages, but the rest of the world has not, and it is to be feared that there will be many more New Yorks, Balis, and Madrids in the years to come.
Al Qaeda and its loosely linked offshoots are diversifying their range of possible targets to include vital infrastructure and energy installations in the West. They are also fielding a new generation of recruits, many of them Muslim immigrants and their offspring in Europe and North America. The decentralized pattern makes countermeasures difficult, especially with self-motivated young people deeply embedded in Western host societies—such as the five young U.S.-born Yemenis from upstate New York convicted last year of plotting terrorist attacks, or the eight U.K.-born British citizens of Pakistani descent charged last summer with plotting attacks on financial institutions in the United States.
It is alarming that the political class in the United States remains unwilling to examine the implications of the existence of a large Muslim diaspora in the country. Law-enforcement and intelligence professionals privately admit that the existence of that multimillion-man presence is essential in providing the terrorists with the recruits, the infrastructure, the mobility, and the relative invisibility without which they would not be able to operate, but neither the September 11 Commission’s final report nor a host of related statements and proposals from both ends of the duopoly have acknowledged that reality.
That there is a correlation between the presence of a Muslim population in a country and the terrorist threat to that country is a demonstrable fact. Muslims are the only group that harbors a substantial segment of individuals who share key objectives with the terrorists, even if they do not all approve of all of their methods. They are the immigrant group least likely to identify with America: In response to a survey of newly naturalized citizens, 90 percent of Muslim immigrants said that, if there were a conflict between the United States and their country of origin, they would be inclined to support their country of origin. In Detroit, 81 percent of Muslims “strongly agree” or “somewhat agree” that sharia should be the law of the land.
This internal threat to America is increasing. In the aftermath of September 11, various estimates of the Muslim population of United States have been made, ranging from two to nine million. The number of mosques and Islamic centers is around 2,000 and keeps growing. The total number of mosques increased 42 percent between 1990 and 2000, compared with a 12-percent average increase among evangelical Protestant denominations and a two-percent average increase among old-line Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox groups.
Immigration into the United States from the Middle East—around 1.5 million now, and expected to rise to 2.5 million by 2010—is likely to be exceeded by Muslim immigration from the Indian subcontinent (Pakistan, India, Bangladesh). Currently, Muslims account for one tenth of all naturalizations, but their birthrates exceed those of any other significant immigrant group. The number of U.S.-born children under 18 with at least one parent born in the Middle East will zoom from 600,000 today to just under a million by 2010.
A long-term counterterrorist strategy is impossible as long as these trends remain undiagnosed and unchecked. The application of ideological and political criteria in determining the eligibility of prospective visitors or immigrants has been and remains an essential ingredient of any antiterrorist strategy, and Islamic activism should be treated as eminently political, rather than “religious,” activity. The problem of Muslim influx, however, is inseparable from the phenomenon of Islam itself—and, in particular, from that faith’s impact on its adherents as a political ideology and a program of action. The notion that terrorism is an aberration of Islam, not a predictable consequence of the ideology of jihad that is inseparable from it, reflects a flawed elite consensus that must be changed. Only then can a coherent program of political and legislative action be developed to make America truly safer.
The preliminary to any such effort is to seal our borders. Preventing illegal immigration is a desirable objective per se; in the context of stopping terrorists, it is mandatory. The means exist, the political will must be found. The September 11 Commission’s final report says: “[B]etter technology and training to detect terrorist travel documents are the most important immediate steps to reduce America’s vulnerability to clandestine entry.” That is incorrect. Better technology is needed, but “the most important immediate step” is controlling the borders. Knowing who is already in the country illegally, expelling them, and stopping illegal newcomers is the highest priority. State and local law-enforcement agencies should be enlisted in enforcing the law and protecting national security.
Law-enforcement agencies at all levels should be freed from the irrational ban on “profiling.” Not all Muslims are terrorists, but, for some years now, nearly all terrorists of concern to America’s national security and to the quality of life of her citizens have been Muslims. “The development of terrorist indicators has hardly begun,” the September 11 Commission’s report says, “and behavioral cues remain important.” This is correct, and it is therefore time to accept that “profiling” based on a person’s appearance, citizenship, origin, and apparent or suspected beliefs must be an essential tool of the trade of law enforcement and the “War on Terror.”
The essential legislative step forward would entail enacting new immigration legislation to exclude all persons engaged in Islamic activism from America. Such activism should be defined as propagating, disseminating, or otherwise supporting jihad (in its primary sense of divinely sanctioned war against non-Muslims); discrimination against Christians, Jews, and other “infidels”; discrimination and violence against women; the sanction of slavery, a poll tax, etc. Islam’s violent manifestations and its discriminatory scriptural message are inseparable. Adequate safeguards against the adherents of that message must be put in place. The proposed definition of Islamic activism would be a major step in the direction of denying actual or potential terrorists a foothold on our shores.
This new legislation should treat a resident alien’s or prospective visitor’s known or suspected adherence to an Islamic worldview as excludable—on political rather than religious grounds. The broad model is provided by the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act (INA, the McCarran-Walter Act). The “affiliation” in this clause will affect a number of people who do not actively identify with the goals and methods of the jihadist core. That may be unfortunate, but it is inevitable. Personal assurances by individuals thus affected cannot be taken at face value: Islam not only allows but mandates lying to “infidels” in order to gain political or any other advantage (cf. taqiyya—the concealment of one’s Islamic beliefs to non-Muslims). The problem is well known to INS officials: Attitudes of Muslims who apply for U.S. visas or asylum often change once their status in America is secure.
In addition, it will be necessary to mandate registration of Islamic centers and their individual members with the attorney general and to subject them to the security supervision and legal limitations that apply to other cults prone to violence. All over the Western world, Islamic centers have provided platforms for exhortations to the faithful to support causes and to engage in acts that are morally reprehensible, legally punishable, and detrimental to the host country’s national security. The model for the proposed measure exists in the McCarran Internal Security Act of 1950.
Islamic activism should be treated as grounds for the exclusion or deportation of any alien, regardless of status or ties in the United States, and for the loss of acquired U.S. citizenship and deportation. The presence in this country of any visitor, resident alien, or naturalized American who preaches jihad, discrimination against “infidels” and women, the establishment of sharia, etc., is inherently prejudicial to the public interest, inimical to social harmony, and injurious to national security.
Useful precedents for these proposals do exist. Keeping out and facilitating the expulsion of politically undesirable foreigners has been at the heart of our immigration legislation since 1903, when Congress barred the admission of anarchists in response to President McKinley’s assassination. After the Russian Revolution, foreign communists were singled out for deportation. On one night alone in January 1920, more than 2,500 “alien radicals” were seized in 33 cities across the country and deported to their countries of origin. Those who preach jihad and sharia should be treated in the same manner. “Ideological” grounds for deportation were on the statute books as late as 1990 and need to be reinstated.
Last, but by no means least, affiliation with Islam should be taken as grounds for denial or revoking of any level of security clearance. Such affiliation is incompatible with the requirements of personal commitment, patriotic loyalty, and unquestionable reliability that are essential in the military, law enforcement, intelligence services, and other related branches of government. The presence of practicing Muslims in any of these institutions presents an inherent risk to its integrity and undermines morale.
Acceptance of these proposals would represent a new start in devising a long-term defense against terrorism. They reflect the seriousness of the struggle. This war is being fought, on the Islamic side, with the deep conviction that the West is on its last legs. It is time to prove them wrong with truly robust measures of self-defense.
Other changes are needed, too, but they concern global issues that require a shift in strategic thinking. The United States should reduce her dependence on Arab oil. She must stop appeasing jihadist ambitions in Chechnya and the Balkans. The neoconservative policy of global dominance, of which “exporting democracy” to the Middle East is but one manifestation, is self-defeating. Unbalanced support for one side in the matter of Israel-Palestine is irrational and, in the long term, detrimental to Israel’s long-term security.
These proposals are politically viable. They are likely to elicit an outcry from the elites, but the accusation of “discrimination” cannot apply to a proposal to exclude people not on the basis of their genes but because of their ideas, actions, and intentions. Supporting these proposals will be a boon to any politician bold enough to embrace them. A poll sponsored by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations and the German Marshall Fund of the United States found considerable support—79 percent—for a total ban on visitors and immigrants from Muslim countries, and these proposals are far from advocating such radical solutions.
Ultimately, the outcome of the War on Terror will depend on our ability to define ourselves and to understand the nature of the threat. “If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles,” says Sun Tzu.