Radical Islamic Populism and Donald Trump

Follow this recent sequence of events in Pakistan: A Christian was accused of blasphemy; a Muslim governor defended her in the media; he was murdered; the man who murdered him was given the death penalty; 100,000 people came out to mourn.

Who did they mourn? The Christian terrorized by Sunni blasphemy laws? The governor who stood up for religious diversity? No, the governor’s killer.

What this suggests to me is that Trump, much as I loath him, has raised a fair issue as to whether, say, a Western democracy should ever want to admit for citizenship (or even just a visit) anyone attending this funeral. This isn’t a matter of a religious test for entry, but of whether one has broken the international social contract or not. If one went to a funeral of this nature, it would suggest that your values are simply not compatible with those of Thomas Jefferson or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (see video below). It breaks the social contract between diverse people.

And yet how would you know, from an immigration standpoint, whether someone applying for entry into the West had been in this crowd?

Imagine, for instance, that, in the United States during the Civil War, the South had actually won its independence. Imagine further that, in the South, great crowds gleefully attended, a couple of times a year, the lynchings of black people as part of their affirmation of white Christian and Southern monoculture. Now imagine someone from the South seeking to immigrate to the secular and democratic North. Wouldn’t you want evidence that the Southerner didn’t participate in such grotesque displays–and, ideally, even actively opposed them?

By virtue of a person cooperating with and supporting slavery and lynching, the social contract with the people of the North would have already been broken. That applier for immigration shouldn’t get in. It isn’t a matter of Southern Christian values vs. secular values; it’s not a religious test. Religion is beside the point. It’s whether the applier for immigration shares the baseline values of fundamental tolerance on which the social contract in a diverse and secular democracy is based.

If you attend a lynching, burn a cross on somebody’s lawn, walk through a Jewish neighborhood denying the Holocaust, jack-booting, and hailing Hitler–or march in a funeral procession for the assassin of a governor defending social tolerance for a Christian, you’ve broken the social contract of the secular democracies. You want the benefits, but not the obligations, entailed in that contract. Your inclination is to seek rights, but not extend them. And if you live outside of the West, and can do that–if you can toy with intolerant ideologies in a callous manner–or worse, embrace them publicly and enthusiastically–then you shouldn’t get to enter the United States, or any other Western country.

But how do we know absent evidence? That’s Trump’s question. When such large numbers in a foreign country appear to be enthusiastic for reactionary values that break the international social contract among groups of people, what can we do to really know who we’re letting in?

Trump says shut down all immigration from those parts of the world where 100,000 people can come out and enthusiastically embrace the murder of dissidents.

But I say: let’s try something calmer. How about something less blanket, like this: let’s put the existential onus on the immigration applicant, and how he or she has lived his or her life heretofor. That is, require evidence from immigration applicants that they actually stand-up for values of tolerance; evidence that an immigration officer can verify before proceeding with any application. Evidence before entry.

That might well spur democracy and diversity globally, for people contemplating Western immigration would then have to ask themselves: what am I doing for democracy and diversity where I live now? What evidence can I provide, on the days of such funeral processions, that I was elsewhere–or spoke against them? Maybe aspiring immigrants could keep freedom journals to show immigration officials their embrace of tolerant values.

Yes, evidence can be falsified, but officials would no doubt develop skills for discerning the quality of the evidence presented, and a paper trail would thereby be generated on the applicant’s life.

Good idea?


Tens of thousands turned out in the streets of Pakistan to mourn the radical Islamist who assassinated my father.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
This entry was posted in atheism, donald trump, Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

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