June 12, 2007
With President Bush lobbying Congress to revive the defeated and disastrous immigration bill, authorities have a chance to recast the bill in a way that takes adequate measure of the national security implications of the immigration issue. And now, Lebanon, a nation currently under attack from al-Qaeda-linked terrorists, has shown the way with a measure that the President and Congress would do well to consider adapting for the United States. In an attempt to prevent jihadists from entering Lebanon from neighboring countries, the Lebanese Foreign Ministry and the General Security Department may stop giving entrants from Arab countries automatic entry visas; instead, they would have to apply at Lebanese missions in their native countries – allowing Lebanese officials time to scrutinize their applications and try to determine whether they are involved in jihad activity.
Such a proposal has a great deal to recommend it. Lebanon is treating immigration as a national security issue, as it manifestly is not only for Lebanon, but for the U.S. as well. With refreshing directness, Lebanese officials are considering heading off the problem at its source, or one of its sources, by restricting entry into the country from Arab countries from which jihadists come. Likewise the U.S. also could, and should, institute restrictions on immigration from Muslim countries. This issue has been clouded by national traumas about “racism,” but in fact it has nothing to do with racism, as jihadists with blonde hair and blue eyes are just as lethal, and should be just as unwelcome, as jihadists with dark skin, this is about taking prudent steps to protect ourselves and defend our nation. It is only a matter of common sense to recognize where the great majority of jihadists come from, and act accordingly.
Officials should proclaim a moratorium on all visa applications from Muslim countries, since there is no reliable way for American authorities to distinguish jihadists and potential jihadists from peaceful Muslims. Because this is not a racial issue, these restrictions should not apply to Christians and other non-Muslim citizens of those countries, although all should be subjected to reasonable scrutiny. Those who claim that such a measure is “Islamophobic” should be prepared to provide a workable way for immigration officials to distinguish jihadists from peaceful Muslims, or, if they cannot do so, should not impede basic steps the U.S. should take to protect itself. And Muslims entering from anywhere -- Britain, France -- should be questioned as to their adherence to Sharia and Islamic supremacism. This is not because anyone will expect honest answers, but so that answers proven false by the applicant’s subsequent activity can become grounds for deportation.
Meanwhile, this is not just an immigration problem. The Fort Dix and JFK Airport jihad terror plots uncovered in recent weeks not only underscore the need to fix our broken immigration policies, but they show the need also to deal with the fact that jihadists are already in the country. When twenty-six percent of Muslims in the United States who are under the age of thirty approve of suicide attacks in some circumstances, and two such attacks are uncovered in the last month, this is not an abstract problem. Islamic organizations in the U.S. who refuse to renounce and teach against political Islam should be reclassified as political organizations and made subject to all the controls and scrutiny to which political organizations are subject. And here again, words must be backed by deeds, or can justly be regarded with suspicion.
If national security were our priority, these proposals would not even be controversial. Nor would Islamic advocacy groups in the U.S., if national security were their priority, oppose them either. In fact, they might spur those groups to become more energetic in rooting out jihadists from among their ranks, and from among the Muslim community in America in general. Instead of the platitudes and half-measures we have seen up to now, along with active opposition to anti-terror efforts, we might see them take genuine steps to declare the ideology of jihad and Islamic supremacism beyond the pale of American Islam, and renounce political Islam and any intention, now or in the future, to replace the U.S. Constitution with Islamic Sharia law.
But instead, the national debate still degenerates all too easily into charges of “racism,” while the real national security issues involved in immigration are shunted aside. A time may come, all too soon, when the American people will wish they had not for so long indulged this luxury. The President and Congress have a chance now to take up the immigration debate anew, and to think like statesmen, not like politicians. A realistic look at immigration as a national security matter would be a good place to start.
Robert Spencer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of six books, seven monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World’s Fastest Growing Faith and the New York Times Bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad.