This afternoon, I was asked by the Huffington Post for a statement on Donald Trump's recent proposal to ban Mulsims from entering the United States "until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on." (That sounds like a permanent ban.)
Donald Trump is getting at something important in his proposed immigration plan. Immigration is fundamentally about identity, and not economics or “fairness.” Moreover, religion is an important component of any individual’s identity. And Islam is foreign to the historic identity of the American nation.
Trump is also, no doubt, responding to the European “refugee crisis,” a catastrophe he does not want to see repeated in North America. And I applaud Trump for demonstrating his independence from the immigration proposals of big business and various ethnic lobbies.So when is Donald Trump going to talk about that?
That said, I do not think religion is the best criterion to consider. Even if one were able to determine, unequivocally, an applicant’s religion, it’s not always easy to determine its consequences. There are Muslims who claim Islam leads them to be pacifist libertarians; there are Muslims who claim Islam inspires them to join ISIS; there are Muslims for whom the Koran seems to have no effect on their lifestyle and actions. And yet all these people consider themselves to be Muslims.
Ultimately, a person’s race, ethnicity, and country of origin are far more important components of identity than religion; and these should be, as they have been in the past, the primary criteria in considering the immigration question.
Update (December 8, 2015)
Roman Bernard makes an important point in the comments:
The thing is, Islam is more than a religion, it’s also a civilization and therefore an identity. You could perfectly imagine a White Nationalist being Buddhist. But not Muslim.