According to an article in the New York Times on September 10, “In 2005, more people from Muslim countries became legal permanent United States residents—nearly 96,000—than in any year in the previous two decades.” Moreover, many of these are not simply Muslims who had been here on guest visas but now have been granted permanent status (students, for instance). Rather, as the Times notes, “More than 40,000 of [the 96,000] were admitted last year, the highest annual number since the terrorist attacks” of September 11, 2001.
In other words, an increasing number of Muslims are coming to the United States as legal immigrants with the stated intention of remaining here—at the very time many in the Muslim world view our country’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as attacks on Islam itself. But—the Times assures us, without qualification—these Muslims “come seeking the same promise that has drawn foreigners to the United States for many decades, according to a range of experts and immigrants: economic opportunity and political freedom.”
The assumption behind that remark is that Muslim immigrants come to America not because they are Muslims but in spite of being so, and that their religion is either incidental or something that they are attempting to escape by immigrating. Undoubtedly, that is true for some, and for now. It is naiveté of the worst sort, however, to believe that it is true of all, or to believe that it will continue to be true.
Indeed, the article’s author, Andrea Elliott, ignores her own assumption in discussing the case of “Rubab Razvi, 21, a Pakistani who arrived in Brooklyn nine months ago,” who wishes to wear the hijab but has been cautioned against it. “She ignored the advice, even though people stare at her on the bus . . . ”
Elliott notes that, in the wake of September 11,
this period also produced something strikingly positive, in the eyes of many Muslims: they began to mobilize politically and socially. Across the country, grass-roots groups expanded to educate Muslims on civil rights, register them to vote and lobby against new federal policies such as the Patriot Act.
Even those of us who oppose the PATRIOT Act on constitutional grounds should be able to understand that some Muslims oppose it for rather different reasons. Unfortunately, these distinctions are all-too-often overwhelmed by the incessant drumbeat of President Bush’s claim that “Islam is a religion of peace.”
In the run-up to the midterm elections, some Republican candidates were so desperate that they were willing to try anything, even inviting the lame-duck President to campaign on their behalf. His standard stump speech, not surprisingly, focused on his own “accomplishments.” (I have taken the quotations below from the remarks that President Bush delivered at a breakfast fundraiser for Rick Renzi, an Arizona Republican running for reelection to Congress.)
In attempting to pass the buck for the failure to prevent the attacks of September 11, various members of the Bush administration have pointed out that most of the hijackers were granted admittance to the United States during the Clinton administration. These new numbers, however, raise the inevitable question: How does the current administration know that the next set of terrorists didn’t become permanent legal residents in 2005? President Bush hasn’t been asked the question, so he hasn’t had to answer it, but we can get some sense of where he stands from his stump speech:
It’s important to have members of Congress who see the world the way it is and who understand the nature of the enemy. These are evil people [presumably “the enemy,” not the members of Congress] who have taken the tenets of a great religion and used it to their ends to achieve objectives. . . . These are people bound by an ideology of hate.
Let’s ponder that for a moment. The President isn’t saying that evil people have perverted the tenets of a great religion; rather, they “have taken the tenets of a great religion and used it to their ends to achieve objectives.” The “tenets” of this “great religion” are, apparently, useful tools for such an enterprise. Shouldn’t that in itself raise questions about whether it is wise to allow any adherents of this religion to become permanent legal residents of the United States?
“We believe,” President Bush continues, that
Jew, Muslim, Christian, atheist, agnostic are all equally American. We believe in the great right of an individual to choose how to worship as they [sic] see fit. The enemy says, if you don’t worship the way we worship, you’re guilty.
Set aside the fact that, not too long ago, conservative Republicans would have attacked any liberal Democrat who espoused this vision of religious freedom. Instead, look at what President Bush gives away here. Some Muslims (“the enemy”) say that, “if you don’t worship the way we worship, you’re guilty.” Never mind that it should be “most Muslims” and, indeed, “all good Muslims”; on the President’s own limited admission, shouldn’t we think long and hard before permitting members of such a religion to enter the United States? If some Muslims (most Muslims, all good Muslims) believe this abroad, does the President really believe that none will continue to believe it once they come here?
“We welcome the fact that in our country people can express themselves any way they want. If you express dissent with these ideologues, they will hold you to account.” But Mr. President, isn’t that precisely what Islamic pressure groups such as CAIR already do, right here in the good ol’ U.S.A.? And doesn’t every new permanent legal resident Muslim strengthen CAIR’s case? After all, pressure politics is, at root, about numbers.
President Bush’s stump speech continues with all of his standard justifications for “staying the course” in Iraq, but they take on new meaning in light of the immigration numbers. “We must defeat the enemy overseas so we don’t have to face them here”—which is why we’re importing them and giving them permanent legal status; “It’s hard to plot, plan and kill when you’re running, or when you’re hiding in a cave”—but not hard at all, apparently, when you’re living in Florida and spending your nights in strip clubs.
“Poor George,” as the late Ann Richards once said of another President Bush, “he can’t help it.” The current President Bush, in addition to inheriting his father’s “silver foot in his mouth,” comes by his liberalism naturally. It’s not his fault that politicians and pundits insist on calling it conservatism. Some supporters of President Bush, who understand the Islamic threat somewhat better than he seems to, continue to insist that these public statements are just for show, but let’s assume, more charitably, that he’s not a liar and, therefore, really believes the inanities that he utters about Islam. It’s not hard to understand why. After all, Muslim scholars, both “moderate” and somewhat less so, have been arguing since at least the mid-1970’s that Islam is perfectly compatible with Western-style democracy. When Aaron Wolf and I visited the Iqra School here in Rockford in February 2002 (see “Through a Glass, Darkly,” The Rockford Files, April 2002), Dr. Khalid Siddiqui, chairman of the board of the school and assistant director of the neonatal intensive-care unit at Swedish-American Hospital, told us that sharia would come to the United States democratically, because, “If you look at the Constitution, it is a pure Islamic constitution.” That Prohibition had once been imposed constitutionally, he argued, proved his point.
The current imam of the Muslim Association of Greater Rockford (magr.org), housed in the same former public-school building as the Iqra School, has made similar arguments. According to the Rockford Register Star, Shpendim Nadzaku, who came to the Rockford mosque in September 2004, was “born to Albanian parents in Ohrid, Macedonia. His parents immigrated to America when he was a year old.”
In an op-ed for the Register Star, which was widely posted on Muslim websites, Nadzaku claimed that “the publications [sic] of [the Danish cartoons of Muhammad], far from being an example of Constitutionally protected free speech, actually violates fundamental principles of American law.” Nadzaku’s argument—that these particular cartoons are “‘fighting talk’ calculated solely to provoke outrage”—would not likely, even in today’s politically correct environment, pass constitutional muster at the Supreme Court. What is more interesting is his claim that the Court’s 1942 decision in Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, the source of the “fighting talk” principle, “echoes centuries of Islamic tradition.” “There is ample historical evidence,” he claims,
that Islam, through the world’s final Prophet, Muhammad, taught and strengthened consultative democratic traditions, respect for differing points of view, and basic personal freedoms. Freedom of religion and speech are definitely among the core Islamic values.
Yet, like the Supreme Court, Islam “holds that freedom of speech is not absolute.” In exercising our freedoms, “We must enlighten ourselves with authentic knowledge [i.e., Islam] to lift the yokes of ignorance and prejudice from us.”
The modern liberal world, he argues, can learn valuable lessons from Islam:
Historically, the Muslim world has offered a living example of interfaith cooperation, harmony and justice. Andalusia, for over 700 years the cradle of civilization in Europe, was where Muslims, Christians and Jews lived peacefully, side by side. It was where tolerance, consultation, and mutual respect carried the day. It was where wise people from all of these faiths engaged in scholarly interfaith discussions, research and learning. It was a legacy to the noblest aspirations of the human spirit.
Northwestern University professor Da-río Fernández-Morera has demolished this potted history in an excellent article entitled “The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise” (Intercollegiate Review, Fall 2006). In the context of Islamic immigration to the United States, however, what’s most important is the recognition that many believing Muslims such as Nadzaku see Islam as the natural fulfillment of liberalism—not post-1960’s liberalism, but the entire modern project. And, in one sense, they are right. Compare these two quotations:
Democracy claims that it is the best means of internal cohesion among a people and the best means of cooperation and peace among all peoples. It does not claim to eliminate war, but it claims that if blood must be spilled this should not be for territorial or economic gain, but for a higher moral purpose that shall benefit all mankind. Democracy also claims to produce the best quality of leadership and government.
Each of us puts his person and all his power in common under the supreme direction of Allah, and, in our corporate capacity, we receive each member as an indivisible part of the whole.
The first quotation could have come straight out of a Weekly Standard editorial urging war on Iraq; the second could have come from the Koran. The only problem is that I’ve slightly doctored both quotations. The former is from the book Stages of Islamic Revolution by Kalim Siddiqui, the founder of the Muslim Institute of London and the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain. I simply twice substituted Democracy for Islam. The second is Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who is discussing the subjugation of man to the general will, not to Allah. But notice how easily interchangeable the quotations are—merely by substituting one word in each.
It’s no wonder, then, that, as liberalism increases its death grip on America, a quintessentially liberal president should express his admiration for “true Islam” and preside over unprecedented Muslim immigration to this country. “I fully understand the nature of this enemy,” President Bush told those gathered to open their checkbooks for Congressman Renzi.
No, Mr. President, you clearly do not. Unfortunately for those Americans whose protection you claim is your “highest calling,” this enemy fully understands your nature, and the nature of the enfeebled liberal regime that you, as much as LBJ, FDR, Wilson, and Lincoln, have imposed upon our country. And, as Dr. Khalid Siddiqui and Sheik Shpendim Nadzaku, two “moderate” adherents of the “religion of peace,” have testified, they intend to use that knowledge to the fullest.