Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Right Ascension

Donald Trump wants to temporarily ban Muslim immigration. Many people suggest that ostracizing Muslims can radicalize them while opponents wonder whether "we" should be letting people in who are so easily prone to radicalization.

It's hard to argue with either view. I think it makes sense to restrict the entry of Salafist or Wahhabist (Sunni) Muslims who, unfortunately, form a large part of the Muslim community. At the very least, the United States should stop supporting Saudi Arabia which has been supporting these movements; but you'll hear very little criticism of such an important geopolitical ally.

Had Trump prefaced his ban with a clear exception for peaceful and persecuted Muslim groups like the Ahmadiyya and Sufi whose beliefs tend to be viewed as heretical by mainstream Islam, it would have been a reasonable policy. There's not much the non-Muslim world can or even should do to help Islam at large engage with modernity, but one hopes that the flourishing of peaceful Muslims would help.

What is definitely not helpful is the portrayal of Trump as the reincarnation of Hitler. Rather than shock and silence the opposition, the constant comparisons of Trump's rise with Hitler and the Nazis for policies that are not at all equivalent to the brutal murderous Nazi regimes only legitimize fascism. That is, if you call someone a Nazi every time they oppose you, they are not going to think Nazism is a big deal.

And this is what I'm seeing in conservative and even libertarian circles. There have always been racist and fascist leaning elements among conservatives, but the failure of the media to rise above race-baiting and Nazi name calling serves, ironically, to emphasize those elements. And while we may not have much say in the de-radicalization of Islam (and this is probably going to be the case as long as the Saudis still own and run the most important spaces in the Islamic world), Americans do have a say with how we discuss what ought to be prosaic issues, like immigration.

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