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I can’t recall any statement in modern history making waves higher than those generated by Donald Trump’s Muslim comments this week. From the moment the proposal left his snarled lips, the entire world has been ideologically drunk, stumbling about with no sense of proportion, history, law or context. The New York Times described the outrage directed at Trump as ‘withering fire’. The UK papers called it a ‘perfect storm’ and ‘political sensation’. In the Guardian, the normally level-headed Gary Younge reacted by saying that ‘bigotry’ (presumably he meant anti-Islam sentiment) is now ‘out, loud and proud’ in both politics and society. And so on..
As far as I have noticed, the only major political commentator to approve of Trump’s proposal is (the ever-dependable) Ann Coulter, who tweeted ‘Go, Trump, Go!” and went even further by suggesting the policy should cover all foreigners.
What actually was the idea? Well, there have been many myths advanced about what Trump actually said and meant, either to make it seem better, or – more commonly – to make it seem worse, but put most basically, Trump suggested that all Muslims be barred from entering the United States until ‘(America’s leaders) figure out what is going on (with ISIS, terrorism etc…’. At first the billionaire seemed to maintain that this would apply even to Muslim-Americans serving in wars abroad after their term had been completed, but this aspect has since been removed.
This isn’t a crazy idea, at least from a European perspective. The reason hell broke loose is because America is not Europe, and America’s Muslims are not like Europe’s Muslims. While the latter are the result of recent immigration (and a smattering of conversions), the former have a complex and native root that would be difficult or impossible to cleanly excise. Many American Muslims are Black Africans, and Black Africans are generally considered to be as American as apple pie. Given this reality, it came as little surprise to see the prodigious employment of a certain boxing legend on social media following Trump’s announcement. Indeed, were there still people not yet primed to what was going on, they might have honestly surmised that Muhammad Ali had perished, such was his ubiquity on the internet last Tuesday evening.
My own reaction to this announcement has been ambivalent. I salute and congratulate Mr Trump on his boldness, his daring and his commitment to the Western World and the preservation of its culture. But the prospect of a wholesale ban on Muslim travel is utopian. However happy the proposal’s consequences might be, it flies against the complexity of the world as it is, as well as against the realities of the United States itself. In the globalised world, it remains necessary that certain people from non-Western nations travel to the West (and vice versa). Muslim businessmen, diplomats and government officials require access for official functions – functions which are essential for the United States’ economy and for the furtherance of its global agenda. If the Muslim travel ban was implemented, the United Nations would have to be moved outside of the US – drastically diminishing the country’s soft power and shifting the political emphasis to Europe. For these (and many other) reasons I do not believe Donald Trump’s proposal is workable at the present moment. Nonetheless, the proposal is far from ‘mad’, and Mr Trump did not deserve the orgiastic right-wing back-stabbing of the past 7 days.
In my humble opinion, a more workable proposal is that advanced by many ‘radical’ parties; namely, that while (some) Muslims should be allowed to travel to the West, these must never become Western. Western citizenship should not be bestowed on any non-native person of Islamic faith. Ever. Period. The risks are too high, and the benefits are too inconsiderable for the admission of Muslims into the Western organism to make sense.
I am aware that the announcement of this policy would cause as much or more controversy as the one Trump announced, but reactions are inevitable and we have to do something.
We cannot de-Islamise Muhammad Ali, but we can make damn sure the current inhabitants of the Islamic world do not become permanent inhabitants of Boston, New York, Washington, Paris, London and Madrid.