President Trump’s executive order on immigration from just seven Muslim countries has the left up in arms. Many liberals are saying that this temporary pause (which they call a “ban”) will prompt the great “resistance” against our president. There were protests against the executive order at international airports, cities with large immigrant populations such as New York, and, strangely, in parts of Europe. The mainstream media are now brimming with denunciations from intellectuals at universities and leftist think tanks. “He’s [President Trump] loaded his anti-immigrant Uzi and is firing off another round,” said one “immigration expert” Angela Maria Kelley of the leftist Center for American Progress.
Panels and presentations by these “experts” are popping up across the nation. Virginia’s George Mason University (GMU) has an “Institute for Immigration Research,” which put on a panel called, “Xenophobia and Islamophobia in the Modern Era.” I decided to attend.
With all the self-righteous preaching and violent demonstrations we have seen, I expected the panelists to be fired up, but the talks were dry. A Dr. Mohamed of the Pew Research Center spoke about various polls that suggest as much as half of Americans do not know what Ramadan or the Koran are. A woman with the Pakistan America Foundation rattled off statistics about the number of immigrants from the Middle East with doctorates. A professor of Islamic studies from GMU touched on how vast and varied the history of Islam and Islamic cultures are. The fourth panelist—and the only one not of Middle Eastern origin—talked about the importance of listening to others and being empathetic. After an hour and a half, the message was simple: Americans know nothing about Islam, which is a wonderful and varied thing; some Muslim immigrants are doctors, and we all need to be less judgmental. Ergo, President Trump’s executive order is bad.
Much has been said lately about “facts,” alternative and otherwise. This panel prided itself in being very fact based, and encouraged the audience to tweet about the event using the hashtag, #immigrationfacts. But the event was a series of non sequiturs. I believe the fellow from Pew Research (a very reputable and reliable source) who said that most Americans don’t know the first thing about Islam. But his inference—“Americans don’t know enough about Islam to justify not liking it”—is absurd. Should I decide whether or not I want to live in an Islamic country only after studying the Koran? Should the US decide whether to let in millions of Muslims only after every one of us has investigated Islam?
As the radicals of the 1960s used to say, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” Somalia is a terrible, violent, poor country. No number of facts about Islam, known or unknown to the American public, changes that.
I don’t know much about habits of bears. I do know, however, that I don’t want them in my apartment. If I learned everything there is to know about bears, I still wouldn’t want them in my apartment. If I knew even less about bears than I do now, I wouldn’t want them in my apartment. Dr. Mohamed wants us to overlook the simple and the straightforward by focusing on the trivial.
Miss Jamil, the presenter from the Pakistan America Foundation, tried to play the same trick. It may be true that immigrants to the US from certain Middle Eastern countries are more likely than US citizens to have PhDs. But that isn’t the case for the millions of refugees from Syria and Iraq pouring into Europe, and it’s probably not the case for most of the countries on the temporary ban, such as Libya, Sudan, and Yemen. Does Miss Jamil think that Mr. Trump’s order is blocking doctors and engineers we desperately need? There are better places to find doctors.
The points made by Dr. Tekelioglu, the Islamic studies professor, were equally weak. It is true that Islam has been around for over a millennium. I do not know even one percent of that long history, and I’m confident that Dr. Tekelioglu knows a lot of it; certainly more than I ever will. But am I not qualified to determine whether America should have more Iranians until I have deeply studied the history of the Middle East?
Dr. Maulden is a professor of “Conflict Analysis and Resolution” at GMU. Her talk was one banality after another: People need to listen to each another more, appearances can be deceiving, consider the hardships a person may have endured before judging him, be compassionate, etc. If you’ve ever attended a public school, had a guidance counselor, or talked to a personnel manager, you have heard this before. If you are over age 12, you probably figured these things out for yourself. Undaunted by split infinitives, she said such things as, “Challenge yourself to actively listen to those around you,” with the tone and conviction of someone saying something original. Would she urge her audience to “actively” listen to white advocates?
Questions from the audience were mostly asking for advice on how to “combat” the “barrage of misinformation” about Islam and immigration. The panelists said that all you can do is present the facts as best you can, and to be cool, calm, collected, and polite. More trite advice.
What struck me was that the facts the panelists offered are not a basis for policy. How many refugees do these people think America should accept, and why? How many Arabs? How many Africans? Is America is a Christian country? Would it matter if America became an Islamic country? How much terrorism should a country be willing to accept as a cost of its immigration policies? No one raised these questions, much less tried to answer them.
The debates around the President’s executive order are just beginning. If you are involved in a discussion, stick to the big picture. Questions about which group has how many PhDs or what Americans know or don’t know about Islam are pointless and distracting—that’s why the other side brings them up. Explain the vision you have and explain why theirs is wrong. Immigration is about identity, culture, and security—not PhDs.