Friday, December 11, 2015


Presidential hopeful Donald Trump's remarks on Muslim immigration ("a total and complete shutdown on all Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on") have sparked a firestorm. I shared my thoughts on Facebook a few days back (with a vigorous discussion ensuing in the combox).

Much to my astonishment, Catholics whose ideas I normally appreciated and valued, were supporting this proposal: no, it wasn't unconstitutional, the President has the authority to restrict the entrance of aliens (the legal term for non-citizens), and it was prudent in light of national security. Islam really only leads to violent jihad. The only good Muslim is a jihadi who kills infidels. The Qu'ran says so clearly. All Muslims therefore are potential terrorists. If it prevents only one terrorist (or potentially radicalized terrorist) from killing one American, it would be worth it.

I am not going to attempt to respond to these arguments here. Here I simply want to envision how things might look if Mr. Trump's proposal actually came to pass, that is, if the United States actually enacted legislation that barred any non-American adherent of the Islamic religion from being admitted to the country, until we "figure out what is going on" (Presumably this is not a short time period. The War on Terror is, after all, a long term war.)

Consular officials in a vast swathe of countries in Asia and Africa now no longer have any major work, since the vast majority of the populace is no longer eligible for a U.S. immigrant or nonimmigrant visa.

The Department of Homeland Security is hiring extra staff for a variety of tasks: printing up a whole set of new forms, for instance, with space for a new category: religion. New personnel are being trained to enforce removal proceedings of a vast number of people already in the United States whose admissibility has been revoked. Muslim visitors, students and businessmen currently within the U.S. have been given 30 days to leave. Universities, while lamenting the state of affairs vehemently, are not refunding foreign Muslim students for tuition and other expenses already paid. Some enterprising lawyers are putting together a class action lawsuit. Muslim Legal Permanent Residents (those with "green cards," i.e. immigrants), as well as asylees, and refugees, have been given 90 days within which to pack up their affairs and voluntarily remove themselves from the US. No exception has been made for Americans married to non-American Muslims. Those who had applied for naturalization before the day the law went into effect are permitted to continue. The rest are out of luck.

Let's look at the aviation industry. Several major airlines have stopped flying to the U.S.: Qatar, Kuwait, Gulf Air, Saudia, Garuda Indonesia, Royal Jordanian, Etihad, Emirates, PIA etc. Their crews are almost entirely Muslim. Airlines of other countries (Air India, British Airways, KLM, Malaysian Airlines, Qantas, Air Canada) are now devoting resources to ensure that no Muslims are scheduled to work on flights to the US.

Ordinarily, it is the responsibility of airlines to make sure that passengers have the necessary documents for legal admittance to their destination. An airline faces stiff fines, and has to fly the inadmissible person back at its own cost, if it makes a mistake in this area. Airlines are spending heavily to train gate agents, check-in agents, supervisors, customer service personnel, ticketing agents, etc. to properly identify Muslim travelers from countries whose citizens do not ordinarily need a visa to travel to the U.S. for short visits. Extra Customs & Border Patrol officers are being sent to key airports overseas to help airlines with this complicated task, even elsewhere. What if a Muslim Indian has a valid 10-year visitors visa issued years ago? She should be identified and barred, before she gets on the plane! In most places, airlines are setting up separate check-in counters for travelers to the United States, so that their religion can be properly identified.

It is the first day after the new U.S. law has gone into effect. Let's imagine the scene at a major airport somewhere in the world. A vast crowd is milling around the newly labeled check-in counters for the flight of a major airline to the U.S. Large signs point travelers to a "Religion Identification Area." A separate counter has been designated for U.S. citizens. Various posters are taped to pillars and kiosks everywhere, with the new U.S. policy explained: "Under U.S law, if you are not a U.S citizen, and are a member of the Muslim religion, you may not enter the United States." At the entrance to the airport is a large banner: "Please note: Muslims not allowed into US."

A harried check-in agent, flanked by a nervous supervisor, and a U.S. CBP official, talks to passengers as they approach the counter in the Religion Identification Area.

Agent: Name?
Passenger: Usman Abdul.
Agent: Religion?
Passenger (Hesitates): Muslim.
Agent: Sorry Mr. Abdul, you cannot board the flight.
Passenger: But I am going to visit my brother's family! I go every year!
Passenger: Sorry Mr. Abdul.

Agent: Name?
Passenger: Sara Suleiman, with my daughter Fatima and son Daniel.
Agent: Religion?
Passenger: Christian.
Agent: Really?
Passenger: Yes. Well, you see, I grew up Muslim, but I accepted Jesus some time ago.
(Agent looks to CBP official)
Agent: Do you have any proof?
Passenger: Umm. You know, most of my family don't know that I converted. It would be very difficult. So I didn't register anywhere. I just go to the church. Here, I can call the Pastor.
CBP Official: M'am, under the new guideliens, we need written proof of religion. Acceptable documents, when there is a doubt, are a baptism certificate, a letter from a recognized leader in an organization recognized by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. I'm afraid I cannot let you board the flight.

Agent: Name?
Passengers: Samir Nasser
Agent: Religion?
Passengers: Maronite.
Agent: (confused pause -- looks to CBP official)
CBP official (consults iPad and frowns): Christian? With that name?
Passenger: Yes! Would you like me to recite the Our Father?

Agent: Names?
Passengers: Ahmed and Reshma Khan, with sons Imran (10) and Mohammed (7)
Agent: Religion?
Passenger: I'm Muslim, she's Hindu.
Agent: She can travel. I'm afraid you cannot, sir. What religion do the children profess?

Agent: Name?
Passenger: David Coleman Headley
Agent: Oh, go right ahead sir. 

Yes. This is what will make America great again.

(Samir Nasser is actually a Maronite Archbishop. As to David Headley -- there's a tale. He's in there at the end for dramatic effect. In the envisioned scenario, as an American citizen, he wouldn't be subject to this scrutiny.) 


Fr. Josh Allen said...

This is great.

Some thoughts:

1) I don't trust anyone named Headly.

2) Another unintended side-effect: the national and likely international economic depression that would ensue. 1% of the US population is Muslim. Doesn't sound like a lot until you take them out of the economy. And that's not counting retaliation which might ensue from the Arabian Peninsula

3) Israel, which has had this problem for a long time, as extreme as it can often be, has not found it necessary to exclude Muslims from its borders.

4) What kind of crazy world do we live in?

Fr. Gaurav Shroff said...

1) Well his birth name was Gilani. He legally changed it *in order to pass immigration controls more easily* after he was radicalized. 'Cause terrorists will show up in looking like an A-rab ot of a movie ... ?
2) Oh yeah. I focused on areas I'm very familiar with: airline travel, as well as immigration policy. It also developed into a narrative more easily.
3) I've thought of that. They do limit Palestinian access. But nothing, nothing like "ban all Mulims."
4) Oy vey.

Christopher Sharp said...


I found your blog on FJ's wall.

I get why you ended that way--but serious question: when was America great?

As Catholics we like to air our bonafides by pointing to Apostolic Christianity and the Church Fathers. (Bonfides that helped convert me) I think jihadists get so much traction because they can do the same.

Christendom had done little to provoke them, when 2/3 of it was swept away before the first crusade. Spain had no colonial ambitions when they were occupied for ~770 years. France was not looking to expand its geopolitical footprint when Martel defeated them at Tours (centuries before the first Crusade).

I'm all for welcoming them, I just wish more people in Church leadership would actually talk about evangelizing the people--instead of playing lip service to a religion that has been one of the strongest retrograde forces in the history of man.

I think Bernard Lewis and Warren Carroll provide some fair perspective. Daniel Ali (former Muslim has some good insight as well).

Linked below:

Would legitimately like to have a serious convo about these topics.



Fr. Gaurav Shroff said...

Chris: Thanks for the comments. In my original remarks on Facebook I stated:

"The question of Islam and violence and terrorism is not an illegitimate question, but it is not part of this immediate conversation. The legitimacy of the rights of Muslims, and their freedom to exercise them, as well as their freedom to live free from fear of intimidation, discrimination or violence, is not dependent on one's views about what rightly constitutes jihad, or whether ISIS is the "true" Islam or not."

I'm not someone who's entirely sanguine about the complicated and multifaceted reality that faces us that is known as Islam. I tried to articulate my own thoughts in a post on this blog back in 2006. Have a look if you wish. (Just FYI, I was very prolific on the blog between 2006 & 2008. When I entered seminary, I stopped blogging, and have only resumed, very sporadically, since ordination in 2013.)

Bi-polar on Islam

Whereas I'd write things a bit differently, in essence, I don't think my views have changed.

I agree with you about the need for the call to conversion. The interesting, and generally little known reality (outside evangelical circles) is the fact that there is an active mission to the Islamic world, but mainly by evangelical Christians. This old blog post has links to various posts that discuss this fascinating reality.

Finally, I always mention this campaign (also evangelical).

Would that the Catholic Church would rediscover this zeal for souls!

Fr. Gaurav Shroff said...

PS: I've heard Daniel Ali's powerful story before. Thanks for linking it.