Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump sparked controversy this week when he argued that the United States should ban immigration by Muslims, calling for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” Many key officials in the Republican Party—and in particular from most of Trump’s rivals for the Republican presidential nomination—were quick to jump on his comments. But Trump’s supporters widely supported his position.
While Trump asserts that the ban is necessary to protect the United States from further terrorist attacks, many security officials warned that such a ban could play in to recruiting messages by the Islamic State and others, thus undermining US national security. A statement by the Pentagon Press Secretary, Peter Cook, observed that,
There are, as I said before, there are Muslims serving patriotically in the U.S. military today, as there are people of many faiths. I’m not aware of any particular new training as a result of this. We’ll check and see if there are Muslims specifically serving in those particular areas that you mentioned. But I would just make the larger point that — that we don’t have — the United States doesn’t have any issue, and certainly the Department of Defense, anything that creates tensions and creates the notion that the United States is at odds with the Muslim faith and Islam would be counterproductive to our efforts right now, and totally contrary to our values….We have troops serving that follow the Muslim faith. And, again, without wading into politics, anything that tries to bolster, if you will, the ISIL narrative that the United States is somehow at war with Islam is contrary to our values and contrary to our national security.
What do you think? Should the United States take steps to prevent Muslims from entering the United States, as Trump suggests? Or might such moves undermine US national security, as Cook argues?
Muslims in Europe were already concerned about laws they perceive as undermining the practice of their faith. While the United Kingdom had historically avoided much of the attention, Muslims in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands had complained of discriminatory laws which they argue impinge on their religious freedoms. A 2004 French law, for example, banned the wearing of the conspicuous display of religious symbols in school, a move which French Muslims claimed was intended to prohibit wearing the burqa or hijab. In 2010, a more expansive law was passed, prohibiting the wearing of face coverings (like the burqa) in public. Belgium and the Netherlands have passed a similar “burqa bans” in public spaces.
Such bans have proven wildly popular among the electorates. Even in countries without such prohibitions—like Sweden and Denmark—public opinion polling regularly finds support for such bans exceeding 60 percent of respondents.
Why is there so much concern over Islamic religious practices in Europe?
Muslims in Europe are a growing and highly visible minority population. Across Europe, approximately 6 percent of the total population is Muslim. Many far-right European political parties have painted immigration—particularly Muslim immigrants—as a threat to the “traditional way of life,” arguing that immigrants pose a threat to national identity. Europe’s current economic instability no doubt contributes as well. And in the United Kingdom, British involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan likely also plays a role.
The nature of citizenship in Europe is an important underlying factor. In the United States, citizenship is based on is determined by birthplace. People born in the United States are American citizens, regardless of the citizenship of their parents. In international law, this is referred to as jus soil, the right of the soil. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, about 8 percent of all children born in the United States are born to parents who were not citizens of the United States. Many European countries, by contrast, base citizenship not on birthplace but on the citizenship of the parents. This is referred to as jus sanguinis the right of blood. Children born to German parents, for example, are German citizens regardless of where they were born. People born in Germany to non-German parents, by contrast, do not necessarily receive German citizenship. In the case of Germany, this has created a problem for millions of Turks born to parents who were guestworkers in Germany but who lacked German citizenship.
Some observers note that the differing conceptions of citizenship under such a system can help to radicalize the minority population. Because they are not accepted as “true” citizens, members of such minority populations may become more radicalized and embrace violence as a vehicle for addressing perceived grievances.
Radicalization, of course, is a far more complicated process than can be attributed to citizenship laws. Indeed, Britain is one of the most diverse countries in Europe, and London, its capital, is among the most diverse cities in the world, and Britain has been more accepting of immigrants—and their diverse identities—than has been the case in many other countries.
What do you think? What is the most important factor in explaining the radicalization of minority populations? Does citizenship play a role? Is citizenship and inclusion more important than economic factors? And what do you think will happen in Europe as Islam continues to grow as a minority religion? Take the poll or leave a comment below and let us know what you think.
Violation of the new ban would be punished by a fine of €150 ($190) and a mandatory citizenship course. Forcing a woman to wear a niqab or burka would be punishable by a year in prison or a €15,000 ($19,000) fine. A spokesperson for the government described the religious garb as “a new form of enslavement that the [French] Republic cannot accept on its soil.”
The ban enjoys considerable support among the French public, which approved of the measure by an 82 to 17 percent majority. Polls indicate that strong majorities support similar measures in Germany, Britain, and Spain. Two-thirds of Americans oppose such a measure.
Although the French measure still must be approved by the upper house and will likely face a constitutional challenge, the ban has already provoked considerable discussion. Blogging at Big Think, David Hirschman argued that claims that the measure was intended to protect women may actually wind up intensifying discrimination against Muslim women and further isolate and alienate French Muslims. In a rare moment supporting the French, Peter Worthington blogging at the conservative Frum Forum strongly supports the measure on the grounds of national security.
But among the most interesting has been Gideon Rachman’s blog at the Financial Times. For Rachman, the ban evokes questions of liberty that transcend both sides of the debate. For the ban’s supporters, the measure represents an effort to ensure the liberty of women, striking a blow for “republican values” like equity. For those who oppose the ban, the measure infringes on the individual liberty of women who choose to wear the niqab. Rachman’s solution is to develop a compromise in which face-covering veils in state-run locations like schools and government buildings. Like most compromises, however, Rachman’s solution is likely to displease all parties in the controversy.
So does the French ban protect or violate the civil liberties of the women it affects?