No arsing about with an introduction this week; you all know what this is about. Donald Trump started it late last year, and more recently the call has been taken up by the likes of Pauline Hanson, Andrew Bolt and whoever the hell Sonia Krueger is (Dancing With the Stars? Really? We’re listening to this person?) – in the name of a safe, secure and terrorist-free nation, we should just outright ban any Muslims from coming to our country from now on.
Nothing screams ‘intellect’ like hosting reality TV.
Naturally these suggestions met storms of criticism on the grounds that such a blanket ban is racist/bigoted in the extreme. And naturally this was met in turn with a storm of counter-criticism along the lines of ‘they’re just saying what the silent majority believe’, criticism of political correctness, and celebration for Trump/Hanson/etc for ‘standing up for freedom of speech’.
I’ve got a few choice thoughts on this debate itself, but I’ve done those topics before and frankly, there’s a much bigger question that’s strangely getting ignored here: is banning Muslim immigration a good idea or not, and why? It’s easy to call out either side of the debate as racist or politically correct, but unless we can demonstrate that our particular argument is backed up by evidence and logic, then we’re just yelling at each other.
So, let’s have a look at the arguments:
The call to ban Muslim immigrants (and presumably refugees by extension) is based on a couple of fairly solid observations:
The cultural norms of many Muslim nations, and of Islam itself, are contrary to the values of western nations such as Europe, the USA and Australia. It’s argued that allowing immigration from these groups leads to conflict, which may lead to violence and the erosion of our values by outsiders.
The major threat from this is obviously Islamic terrorism; people motivated by Islamic-based ideology to attack western peoples and nations, as seen throughout the world for the last 15 years, but particularly in Europe following the mass-migration of Muslim refugees that is currently underway.
For anyone looking for more detail on this crisis, I can’t recommend this video strongly enough.
Both these observations are factually true (to a degree) and very serious problems. Islamic immigrants often do bring very different cultural norms with them, some of which I personally find repulsive – the burqa for example, not to mention some of the more extreme sexist practices. These values becoming acceptable or normal in Australia would be a very serious problem due the harm they cause, and as such should be opposed wherever possible.
Furthermore Islamic terrorism is a serious danger in the world today and national security is absolutely crucial, not just to keep us safe, but also to ensure we can enjoy a good quality of life. Those who seek to advance their political goals via violence must not be allowed to prosper, and we need to take whatever measures will ensure that they don’t.
With these two goals in mind, the idea that we should ban all Muslim immigration appears to make a lot of sense – sure it might be extreme, heavy-handed or even bigoted, but if it works then it’s worth the cost, right? Banning all members of a community associated with dangerous values and behaviours may not be fair, but it’s guaranteed to solve the problem, isn’t it? And would you be willing to look the family of a victim of terrorism in the eye and tell them that not being racist was more important than their loved one still being alive?
It’s a compelling case, right? As a utilitarian I have long argued that anything, no matter how vile, can be justified provided it will lead to the best possible outcome – if a bit of racism could end the threat of Islamic terrorism and regressive values/behaviours in Australia, then shouldn’t we at least consider it?
But by the same measure, if it turned out banning Muslim immigration wouldn’t keep us safe from terrorism and/or destructive values, then we should reject it completely, right? Because then it would be racist and pointless, wouldn’t it?
Want to have a guess where this is going?
It won’t bloody work
Ok so we demand that every immigrant discloses their religion and we reject anyone who says they are a Muslim. If you were a Muslim who wanted to get into Australia, then how would you get around this hurdle? It’s a challenging question I know, but by really straining my brain I think I may have a solution! If you could – and bear with me here – somehow contrive to pretend that you weren’t a Muslim (even though you’re actually Muslim) then the customs guy might not realise that you are in fact a Muslim, and he might let you in the country! Genius!
Sarcasm aside, all you need to do to get past a ban on Muslim immigrants is to lie about your religion. Simple as that and hardly a sacrifice that many Muslims (not to mention friggin’ terrorists) are going to struggle with. Sure you might argue that customs officials would take lies into account, but how else can you detect religious beliefs? Ban everyone from nations that are mostly Muslim? Ban people that look Muslim? Make them eat bacon? Or shall we just go whole-hog here and ban anyone who’s brown? I hate to burst certain peoples’ bubbles here, but there is such a thing as a white Muslim.
Between this blindingly obvious problem and the fact that there are already several hundred thousand Muslims already living in Australia, the USA and pretty much every country on earth, banning Muslim immigration isn’t just impossible, it’s flat out pointless.
It won’t stop terrorism, in fact it will probably make it worse
For starters, if a terrorist is trying to enter the USA or Australia to attack it, then all this ban will do to stop them beyond existing measures is to make them tell a lie about their faith. Not exactly a challenge, even before you take into account the option of radicalising Muslims already within western nations, or the far more successful recent tactic of targeting those who are already unstable, anti-social or disenfranchised, priming them for violence and pointing them in the direction of your enemies. Unless you’re planning on rounding up and deporting all Muslims already within your country, as well as any non-Muslim who could be persuaded to support extremist ideals, then banning future immigration isn’t going to do a damn thing to prevent a terrorist attack in your nation.
In fact if you look at the methods terrorist groups use to recruit new members, then banning Muslim immigration will make terrorist attacks more likely. Why? Because groups like ISIS rely on the idea that the Muslim world and the western world are mortal enemies, and that the west is hell-bent on wiping out Muslims unless they unify and destroy the west first. It’s the same old ‘Us versus Them’ demand we’re seeing between the black community and police in the USA at the moment – extremists from both sides attacking each other and using each attack to recruit more and more people to their side. Left unchecked, this sort of cycle of violence will lead to complete division between the two groups, making resolution impossible and violence the only option – which is exactly what the extremist groups want.
Banning all Muslims from entering our western nations may seem like a prudent way to keep ourselves safe, but in reality we’d just be handing Islamic extremists a gold-plated opportunity to prove that ‘the west hates Muslims’ and that ‘all real Muslims must hate the west’ in turn. If you think this will somehow decrease the chances of terrorist attacks against westerners, you have another thing coming.
It will make EVERYTHING worse
Putting the threat of terrorism aside for a moment, I get the feeling that a lot of the motivation to ban Muslims is to do with their culture more than physical danger. And as I mentioned above, this is a concern that I share to some degree. There’s plenty about Islam I disagree with and several cultural practices from Islamic nations that I disagree with as well. I’d hate to see those ideas take serious root in Australia or anywhere else for that matter – surely banning Muslims from coming here is an effective way of doing that?
Well for starters, since that would involve judging individuals based on arbitrary groups they belong to, rather than their personal merit, that would be a remarkably bigoted way of going about things. And trying to prevent the spread of crap values by using crap values is a little like stopping an arsonist by burning down the town before they can get to it. In other words it’s self-defeating, self-destructive and all-round fucking stupid. You’d think that after September 11 was used to undermine civil liberties, institute mass-surveillance, start illegal wars and justify torture, we’d be a tad more concerned about further poisoning our politics out of fear for security, but apparently not.
Violating your anus to secure your freedoms.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg this time round. If you give the government the power to ban immigrants who are Muslim then do you realise what you’ve just done? You’ve given a government a mandate to regulate based on ideology. To control your movements based not on what you’ve done to others or whether you pose a threat at all, but based on which ideas you believe in. Now maybe you’re ok with that provided it’s only directed at Muslims and other ideologies you disagree with, but what if it doesn’t? What if the government decided to extend these new powers to banning anyone with any ideology they disagree with? The USA is generally no fan of communism or even socialism; why not outright ban that ideology to prevent it ever getting root? Both of Australia’s major parties are fine with locking up asylum seekers (provided they come by boat); why would they allow anyone into this country who is critical of this policy? They’d have plenty to gain and nothing to lose by such a decision. Screw it, what’s to stop any given government from outright banning their opposition based on their ideology? The Australian Labor Party clearly disagrees with the Liberal Party’s views; why not just lock them up and instantly eliminate your opposition? That’d be awesome for Labor, but maybe not so much for the Liberals, their supporters, anyone critical of the government or who opposes censorship in general.
There is a name for a political system that discriminates against others based on ideology; Fascism. And I think we all know how that ends.
This is the second time this has happened now. Just saying.
Ultimately I doubt that most people calling for a ban on Muslim immigration are actually fully-blown racists. More than likely most are just scared by what they see as a growing danger to their safety, happiness and way of life and are latching on to anyone making a stand in their defence. I get that, but we must accept that these are positions chosen not by facts or logic, but by fear. And fear is a really terrible way of making decisions. It is in fact, cowardly, and it leaves you vulnerable to being led by the nose by power-hungry pricks who want to use you for their own ends. I am better than that, and so are you.