How should America handle radical alien Islamists of a jihadi mindset without having to wait until they commit acts of violence, whether as part of a terror cell or as lone jackals? (I refuse to defame wolves.) This question looms large after events in Europe over the past few weeks.
At least a part of the answer for non-citizen extremists lies in an unwavering willingness to use, in creative ways, the immigration laws that already exist to expel them. Four provisions come immediately to mind: the exclusion prohibitions against membership in designated terrorist organizations and membership in totalitarian organizations; the deportation provision holding that an alien excludable at entry (for the reasons just stated) is also deportable; and the deportation provision prohibiting "any activity a purpose of which is the opposition to, or the control or overthrow of, the Government of the United States by force, violence, or other unlawful means."
A massive "unity" rally was held in Paris following the horrific series of terrorist attacks in France — against a satiric newspaper, a female gendarme, and a kosher supermarket — by radical, anti-Semitic, anti-western jihadists, in which many innocents lost their lives. But even as events were unfolding, and almost as a white noise against the backdrop of the rally, one is already hearing troubling language in how some in the media and punditocracy depict these unconscionable acts: Is French society inclusive enough? Do the French do enough to assimilate their statistically significant Muslim population, many of them immigrants or children of immigrants? What could have been done by the government or society to chart a different course?
While the questions are, perhaps, fair in and of themselves, there is something unseemly about this subtle attempt to shift the blame for murderous terrorism onto society's back. After all, assimilation is a two-way street. Society is morally obliged to reach out an inclusive hand to those whom it accepts into its midst; but those who come must want to take it.
If, following our western precepts of inclusiveness, freedom of religion, and separation of church and state, we permanently admit large numbers people who are, theologically and philosophically, narrow and homogeneous, and who reject out of hand the notion of separating church and state, what are we doing to ourselves, and to our concept of civil society? Should we embrace intolerance in the name of toleration, until society has fundamentally shifted in outlook?
Such persons will live in a perpetual bubble, surrounded by, but not blending with, the prevailing culture. The only time they will commingle is with each other, when the bubbles come together for religious or social reasons. At best, they will coexist with the society that has given them shelter. At worst, they will come to resent, grow angry at, and finally become militantly hostile toward that culture. Such hostility sometimes transcends to violence. This, I suspect, is the position in which France and, increasingly, a variety of European and other nations of a western and progressive outlook (in the largest, best sense) find themselves.
I don't say that all Muslims are incapable of assimilation into western society and culture. That's self-evidently not true. But there is clearly a strain of Islam for which it is absolutely true and, interestingly, it is a strain that seems to surmount the deep divide separating Sunni from Shia. One need only look at ISIS and the Islamic Republic of Iran to see examples on both sides of that divide.
What, then, to do? The question is singularly important for reasons of immigration policy and homeland security. Must we, after all, wait until after a jihadist has committed an unspeakable act to move against him — or her, as Hayat Boumedienne (alternate spelling Boumediene) and Heda Umarova clearly show?
One answer may already exist in American immigration law, which permits the expulsion of individuals who are members of totalitarian parties.
Let us be frank: Radical Islam is founded on religious beliefs of a totalitarian nature. Those beliefs require a form of government irrevocably intertwined with one religion: Islam, and Islam alone, and led by holy men who rule the "ummah", the community of the faithful, which by its very definition excludes non-Muslims.
What is more, the justice system of this form of belief is also intertwined with religion, because it is not civil law; it is Islamic religious law defined by the term sharia, which when practiced by radicals is undertaken in whatever way that those holy men, men like Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi who rules ISIS, see fit. It is a version of sharia law devoid of mercy — a key tenet of Islam for most believers — that sometimes includes crucifixions, beheadings, execution by stoning, and other things repugnant to most human beings.
The problem, at least for immigration screening and admission purposes is this: In the United States, we are understandably and rightly averse to political or religious litmus tests as a basis for one's fitness to participate in American society. On the other hand, though, we have the right to survive and prosper in the manner most appropriate to our society's evolving standards and outlook. I don't propose to have a ready answer to this thorny ethical dilemma, but I think it's fair to frame the issue.
However, at minimum, after we have granted refuge to individuals who are later found to possess such an inalterable view of society and religion, we should not hesitate to invoke this section of law to expel them as a real and present danger, and an existential threat to our lives and our lifestyles.
Let me give a couple examples of applying the totalitarian membership provision: When radicals use social media, as sometimes happens, to profess fealty to al Qaeda, ISIS, al Shabaab, or any of the other Muslim fundamentalist terror groups, or when fiery clerics use the mosque to preach hate and jihad on behalf of the ummah, they should be taken seriously, arrested, and their words used against them in a removal proceeding as evidence of membership in a terrorist organization and/or a totalitarian group. If they then assert that their words were uttered in a moment (or two or three) of intemperate passion, this should be rejected as deceit. Islamists consider lying to non-believers to be justified in pursuit of jihad. It is called taqiyya. One of the brothers who engaged in the murderous Paris attacks is seen in a short video doing this outside the courtroom in one of his prior brushes with the law. Which brings us to another point:
Some will object that, absent a criminal violation, expulsion in such circumstances is harsh. It's well to remember, though, that even those who have been "on the radar" can't be watched perpetually by law enforcement and intelligence officials waiting for them to act. It's too resource intensive, and there are more suspects than officers to undertake that kind of task. The result, as we've seen most recently in France — and as we saw previously in Boston — is a so-called "intelligence failure" with deadly consequences. This is a risk our homeland security officials should not be willing to take, and one our society should not have to accept.
What are the chances of this statutory provision being used as a tool against Islamist extremists?
Unfortunately, under this administration, that is more than unlikely. The sadly misnamed "Department of Homeland Security" is anything but. They can't even get it together enough to deport convicted alien criminals.