Mark Krikorian, Executive Director, Center for Immigration Studies
Peter Skerry, Professor, Claremont McKenna College
Steven Camarota, Director of Research, Center for Immigration Studies
MARK KRIKORIAN: Hello and welcome. My name is Mark Krikorian. I'm executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. We're a think tank here in town that examines and critiques the impact of immigration on the United States. Everything — all of our work is on our website, https://cis.org/, including the publications that we're releasing today. And just to get a commercial in at the beginning, we're doing another panel next week on the threat that Canada's asylum system poses to American security, and that will be here in the Press Club as well on Thursday.
Today we're releasing two papers. One is an essay entitled, "Muslim Immigrants in the United States," coauthored by Daniel Pipes and Khalid Durán — that's on the left side of the folders that you have — and Dr. Pipes will be discussing the paper and related issues. The other paper we're releasing is a fresh look at the numbers of immigrants from the Middle East by the Center's own Steven Camarota, our research director. And the press release and the study — the draft study for that are on the right side of the folder. The final version is still at the printer. Any one who has to deal with printers knows how that goes.
The initial reason to publish this research and to have this panel is self-evident. In the aftermath of 9/11 there's been heightened interest in the Middle Eastern immigrant population living in the United States and its successful integration into American society is increasingly seen as important to our country's future. This has also been a matter of great personal interest to me being the grandson of immigrants from the Middle East and someone who's traveled extensively in the region.
Unfortunately, much of the analysis of this issue has been based on anecdote and conjecture and advocacy groups' special pleading rather than on hard fact. Valuable as they might be under certain circumstances, the impressions drawn from conversations with Egyptian cabbies or clerks at 7-11s are not the sound basis for policy making and we are endeavoring to try to fill that vacuum. And as a practical matter, this new interest in Middle Eastern immigrants has meant that the Center, as one of the main sources of information on immigration for the media, has been deluged with requests for up-to-date information on this population. And, in a happy coincidence, the detailed information or the detailed data source that Steve's report is based on was recently released by the Census Bureau.
The panel we have to discuss this issue is illustrious indeed. We'll begin with Steven Camarota, the director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies. And, if I do say so for myself, one of the nation's foremost experts on immigration policies' impacts on the United States. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia and has written on the influence of immigration on the economy, on government services, on health insurance, on entrepreneurship and on other matters.
Our second speaker is Daniel Pipes. He is director of the Middle East Forum in Philadelphia and is the nation's foremost analyst of the threat posed by radical Islam, both to the West and to the Islamic world itself. He's also a columnist for the Jerusalem Post and the New York Post, received his Ph.D. from Harvard and is author of 11 books, most recently his new book, Militant Islam Reaches America, published by W.W. Norton.
And our third speaker is Peter Skerry, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in California and a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution. His most recent book was Counting on the Census?: Race, Group Identity, and the Evasion of Politics, published by the Brookings Institution Press. His Ph.D. is also from Harvard, and his earlier book, Mexican Americans: The Ambivalent Minority won the Los Angeles Times book prize in 1993. He is conducting research on the political and cultural assimilation of Muslim and Arab immigrants in the United States.
After the three speakers offer their comments we'll then take Q & A from the audience.
STEVE CAMAROTA: As Mark said, the report we're releasing today is perhaps the first to examine the Middle Eastern immigrant population using the latest data available. In this report, I should point out, the terms immigrant and foreign-born are used synonymously. The foreign-born are persons living in the United States who were not citizens at birth. These numbers then include naturalized citizens, legal permanent residents, that is green-card holders, illegal aliens, a large share of whom do get picked up by Census Bureau data, and a small number of people on long-term temporary visas such as students and tourists.
So what did we define overall? Well, Figure 1 reports the number of Middle Eastern immigrants living in the United States from 1970 through 2000, as you can see up here. The figures show what can really only be described as very dramatic growth in this population over the last 30 years. In 1970 less than 200,000 Middle Easterners lived in the United States. By 2000 that number had grown almost eightfold to nearly 1.5 million. Over the same period, of course, the total foreign-born or immigrant population grew very dramatically as well. In fact, the total number of immigrants in the U.S. has tripled since 1970 to 31 million in 2000. But this is still half the growth rate that we have seen in the Middle Eastern immigrant population.
Of this 1.5 million in 2000, I should point out, we think about 10 percent, based on estimates prepared by the INS, are in the country illegally — that is about 150,000 are illegal aliens. I also should point out, when we talk about the Middle East we're talking about the region of the world from basically Pakistan to Morocco. We are not including the former — the Republics of the Former Soviet Union, and this of course does not include the entire Muslim world. So countries that send relatively few immigrants, such as Malaysia and Indonesia, would not be in here.
Question: Israel is?
MR. CAMAROTA: Israel is in these numbers, yes.
What about the future? Well, projecting immigrant trends is of course a difficult task. As Yogi Bear once said, making predictions is hard, especially about the future. But, after all, conditions can change in sending countries and in receiving countries. And the U.S. immigration laws can also be changed. They're not set in stone, and efforts to control illegal immigration could become more vigorous or perhaps even less — even more lax than they already are.
New immigration, both legal and illegal, is primarily driven by the size of the existing immigrant population because it is the relatives and friends of people already here who provide information about opportunities in the United States to prospective immigrants living overseas. And in many cases, it is the relatives who also provide sponsorship. We know that interest in coming to America remains very strong in the Middle East. Even after September 11, the State Department, in October of 2001, received some 1.5 million applications from the region for what's called the visa lottery, which awards 50,000 green cards worldwide to those who win a random. That is, you send your name in on a postcard and they pull your name out of a hat and we distribute 50,000 visas a year that way. One-point-five million people from the Middle East sent their postcard in — or sent a postcard in.
We project that 1.1 million new legal and illegal immigrants from the Middle East will arrive in this decade — that is by 2010 — and we can see that over here on Figure 1 that we're projecting that almost — that the entire immigrant population in the United States from the Middle East will grow to about 2.5 million. Now, it's not going to grow by the full 1.1 million because some people here in 2000 will die and others will go home. Now, these are certainly very large numbers but as the figure shows it's in no way a break with the past; it really represents simply a continuation of what's been going on.
I should also point out that these figures do not include the U.S.-born children of immigrants from the Middle East living in immigrant families, a number expected to grow from 600,000 today to about a million by 2010. It also does not include the native-born or children born in the United States of Middle Eastern immigrants who will no longer be living with their families in 10 years because they will have grown up.
Now, we also examined the demographics of Middle Eastern immigrants living in the United States and we found some very interesting findings, one of which is that it's not a very homogenous group in many ways. One of the most important aspects of this diversity is in the area of religion. While the Middle East itself is overwhelmingly Muslim, historically this has not been true of immigrants to the United States from that part of the world. Up until the 1960s, most Middle Eastern immigrants in the United States were Maronite Christians from Lebanon or Armenians and Assyrians and other Christian minorities fleeing predominantly Muslim countries.
However, in recent decades this has changed significantly. While the Census Bureau does not ask respondents about their religion, it is possible to use the ancestry and language questions in the census to roughly estimate the likely religious affiliation of Middle Eastern immigrants because language and ancestry are often very closely linked to one's religion. We estimate that in 1970 one out of six Middle Eastern immigrants was Muslim, or about 15 percent. That was about 30,000 at that point, but by 2000 we estimate three out of four Middle Eastern immigrants are Muslim, or about 1.1 million of the 1.5 million. Thus, as the Middle East immigrant population has grown, it has become dramatically more Muslim. This significant shift in the religious affiliation of immigrants from the region really is a fascinating social phenomenon and it shows how our immigration system, which allows people into the country primarily based on whether they have a relative here or whether they win the visa lottery, has a logic and a momentum all its own, creating social forces and trends that really would have been entirely unexpected just a generation ago.
Now, we also broke down the Middle Eastern immigrant population by country. Table 1 in the report shows the number of immigrants for the leading immigrants sending countries. It shows, interestingly, that Iran and Pakistan are the top Middle Eastern sending countries in the United States. Interestingly, most of the top countries are non-Arab. However, Arabs do comprise a large share of Middle Eastern immigrants — about 40 percent of the total of 1.5 million or around 60,000, or I should say people from Arab countries. Some people from Arab countries, of course, do not consider themselves Arab — they would be members of minority groups.
If we look at year of entry we find that almost 700,000 Middle Eastern immigrants said in the survey that they came to live in the United States in just the last decade. The leading countries in the '90s were Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran and Iraq. And interestingly, although Israel had the third largest total for immigrants in 2000, it no longer sends as many immigrants to the United States. It ranks seventh in terms of number of immigrants it sent over the last decade.
We also looked at the economic and social standing of immigrants from the Middle East, and one of the most important findings is that it's a highly educated group. This is certainly consistent with anecdotal research but nonetheless we found that almost half of Middle Eastern immigrants have a college education compared to 28 percent of natives. We also looked at their income, and there too they compare very favorably to natives. That is, their income is as least as high as natives.
However, we also found some other things that tend to contradict that a little bit. Most strikingly, we found that their poverty rates and use of welfare was also surprisingly high. In 2000, one in five Middle Eastern immigrants and their U.S.-born children lived in poverty and 23 percent of households headed by a Middle Eastern immigrant used at least one major welfare program, compared to 15 percent of households headed by a native-born American. So this suggests that Middle Eastern immigration in the United States is perhaps becoming more like that in Western Europe with a sizable share being lower income and lower middle class rather than the elite phenomenon that had been primarily until relatively recently.
Now, what are some of the effects of this immigration? Well, time is limited so I'll try to run through them briefly. Probably one of the most important and obvious and straightforward is that this immigration has, or will likely have, an impact on U.S. foreign policy towards the Middle East. Opinion polls indicate that Middle Eastern immigrants are very dissatisfied with U.S. policy towards the Arab-Israeli conflict and would like to see less unequivocal support for Israel and much more support for the Palestinian cause. The leadership of most Arab and Muslim groups in the United States takes a similar point of view.
Now, given their strong interest in Middle Eastern politics, their relatively high income and citizenship rates, absent of change in U.S. immigration policy continued Mid-East immigration appears likely to lead to changes in U.S. policy towards the Arab-Israeli conflict as elected officials respond to this population's growing electoral importance — perfectly natural. Let me make something clear. It is their right. Once we allow people into the country, we would certainly encourage people to become citizens and become active in the political process. There's nothing strange about that. But one of the consequences of that is that we're likely to see increased political pressure for changes in U.S. foreign policy towards the Arab-Israeli conflict.
There are, I think, three areas we have to think about in particular with regard to Middle Eastern immigration, and these numbers suggest that as this population grows these issues are more important than they once were when the population was much smaller. And we need to discuss these issues in an intelligent way and not engage in scare mongering, but nor should we duck the important issues.
The first issue is that large-scale Middle Eastern immigration from the Middle East creates overworked consulates in that region, which is where the State Department, which processes visas and issues them and is now completely overwhelmed by the number of people applying. In the current environment where the consular officers who issue visas are so overwhelmed, it's much more likely, given the numbers, that something will get missed and someone who should not be issued a visa will in fact get one and that's someone who may want to do the United States harm. So the level of immigration from the Middle East, and actually throughout the world, does create some real security risks, given limited resources.
A second issue we have to think about is that a large Middle Eastern population certainly makes it easier for militant Islamists to operate. It is clear that the September 11 hijackers, as well as other al Qaeda operatives over the last 10 years, used Middle Eastern immigrant communities in the United States to provide cover. This is — and this is important — this does not mean that immigrant communities in the United States are knowingly harboring terrorists. But it does mean that allowing enlarged numbers of immigrants creates an opportunity to blend into the country and those opportunities to blend in grow as the immigrant communities grow.
A third challenge that is perhaps very unique to Middle Eastern immigration deals with what might be described as a greater resistance to assimilation. All immigrants face the challenge of life in their new country. But in many ways this is perhaps a more profound issue among Muslim immigrants. There has been and continues to be a debate within the Muslim world about whether one can even be a good Muslim while living in the land of unbelievers. There is also a debate within the community about whether a good Muslim can give his political allegiance to a secular government such as ours that is comprised overwhelmingly of non-Muslims. Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu immigrants do not face this issue in quite the same way and certainly not with the same intensity.
Now, as we debate what immigration policies we should adopt in the future, we should keep several factors in mind. With nine million illegals in the country, certainly violations of immigration laws are very common. But we must remember that the expected settlement of one million new immigrants from the Middle East is going to be the result, overwhelmingly, of legal immigration, not illegal immigration. Of course, legal immigration can be changed. For example, recently proposed legislation to eliminate the visa lottery would reduce Middle Eastern immigration because a significant number of Middle Eastern immigrants have been using it to get their green cards — in other words, if we did away with the lottery.
Alternatively, an amnesty for illegal aliens, which has also been proposed, would increase Mideast immigration by creating many more legal immigrants who could then sponsor their relatives. That's how our system works. And so, if we amnesty some or all of the 150,000 illegal aliens from the Middle East here, then these individuals would then be able to petition, over time, to bring in their family members, thus increasing Middle Eastern immigration.
But, in my view, we must avoid calls to single out Middle Eastern immigration in the future when we discuss these questions. Reducing immigration may well make sense for many reasons but it should be applied fairly to all groups. The same goes for efforts to deal with illegal immigration. Given limited resources at a time when Middle Easterners have taken a prominent role in attacks on the United States, it makes sense to more vigorously pursue Middle East immigrants who violate our immigration laws but only in the short term. As a long-term policy this would be quite unfair. Immigration laws, in my view, must be enforced for all persons equally, not just those from one particular part of the world, even if, as a triage, in an era when — a time of national crisis, we may have to select where we enforce our laws more, as a long-term policy we should not pursue one of selective enforcement.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Thanks, Steve. Now Daniel.
DANIEL PIPES: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. I'd like to thank the Center for Immigration Studies for this panel, which I think is timely and very useful. I'm very impressed by the study that Steve Camarota did. It's a very important one and I urge you to read it closely. The study that you have from Khalid Durán and myself is a section of a rather slow-moving book that one day we hope will see the light of day. It seemed useful to get out this sliver of it at this time, and we thank the Center for Immigration Studies for making it possible. Dr. Durán is not well and therefore cannot be here.
I'm afraid our study is one of those anecdotal studies that Dr. Camarota was referring too. We are grateful that — in fact, I think our conclusions jive with his even though ours tended to be more anecdotal and impressionistic than his. We attempted to look at the phenomenon of Muslim immigration as a whole, and we started by noting that there has been historically a dichotomy between Islam and the West, a dichotomy that is no longer valid because Islam is in the West, not just the United States but certainly Canada, Western Europe and even significantly in Latin American, Australia and so forth. Our study looks at one aspect of this, the immigrants to the West. That is not to say that converts are not also an important study, especially in this country and especially among African Americans.
The problem of counting the number of Muslims in the United States is the first challenge to a discussion of the subject. Some of the boosterish numbers that one can hear, five million, six, seven, some point even 12, I think can be safely discounted. The studies that have been made — made of course without the help of the U.S. Census, which does not ask this question — but studies which have been premised on serious scientific grounds show somewhere on the order of three million Muslims in all in this country. If one takes out the converts and their progeny then the number of immigrants and their progeny is somewhere above two million, I would think.
This is an extremely varied group ethnically. There are Muslims from over 100 countries represented in the United States, and there are some exotic examples of this; a favorite of ours is the Thai-Islamic restaurant in Los Angeles. This population is, like all or nearly all immigrant groups, younger than the national average. Immigrants tend to come young and it tends to be predominantly male. In fact, Islam is the most male religion in the United States. This has a variety of causes but, again, fits a general immigrant pattern.
Muslims tend to settle in large metropolitan areas and in particular in four broad areas: from New York to Washington, in California, especially the Los Angeles and San Francisco regions, in Texas, and in the Midwest in an area from Chicago to Cleveland to Detroit. Each of these areas has a fairly distinct ethnic quality. For example, Detroit has historically had an overwhelmingly Arab population. Iranians tend to predominate in Los Angeles. The striking thing about this geographic dispersion is that there are no ghettos, and if you have any knowledge of Islam in Europe you will understand why this is striking. In Europe, there are — for example in France there are the so-called suburbs, le banlieue de l'Islam. Here there is nothing like that. The only sizable town with a significant Muslim population, something in the order of 30 percent, is Dearborn, Michigan, and it is not a ghetto.
The history of immigration by Muslims to the United States is a long and colorful one. It goes back 500 years. The very first Muslim appears to have come in 1501. The significant influx of Muslims to this country was in the form of slavery. There are disputes on the number of Muslims but the fact of it is certainly clear. At the same time, the slave owners were very, very antagonistic — hostile to Islam and made it very difficult to pass on the religion from one generation to the next. There are some interesting anecdotes on how there were customs, somewhat Islamic in form, that got passed on. But it's safe to say that by two generations after the closure of the slave trade, Islam among slaves had died out. That would be in about 1860.
Not long after, a decade or two later, began the significant influx of Muslims, primarily from the Levant but also from other parts of the world. This influx continued fairly steadily until 1924 with the closure of immigration from outside of Europe, except for token amounts.
The third great wave of immigration began with a landmark 1965 immigration law that put a premium on family reunification and skills, and that is the reigning law still today. There has been, as we just saw, a vast increase in the number of Muslims — Muslim immigrants in the United States.
The reasons for immigrating to the United States are manifold. I'll point out three purposes in particular. The first and most important is refuge. There are many troubles in the Muslim world. There are various forms of ethnic and religious persecution. There is militant Islam. There are those who are fleeing militant Islam. There are those supporters of militant Islam who are fleeing because they feel persecuted in the Muslim world. There are civil wars; there are international wars. There are many problems. here's tyranny. There are lots of reasons to leave the Muslim world and come to the United States.
Secondly, there's education and, more broadly, the economic opportunity. And thirdly, there's what I would call Islamist ambition — militant Islamic ambition. Islamism and militant Islam are the same. That is to say the purpose of coming to the United States is to change the United States. I'll get back to this later, but this is quite distinct from the purpose of refuge. It is often the case that what begins as a temporary sojourn for education refuge or economic reasons turns into a long-term residence — into permanent residence: children, burial and so forth.
Religious practice in the United States is a complex subject. It is clear that some Muslims come to the United States and become more religious. Others become less. The numbers that one can attach this, the numbers that stay the same roughly, are very soft, but it is clear that while some immigrants — Muslim immigrants to the United States respond to the secular order here by turning toward their religion, others find it freeing that here they can enjoy the secular life they could not have back in the home country.
As Dr. Camarota pointed out, the educational and economic levels of Muslim immigrants tend to be quite high, higher than the national average, though, as he points out, there are significant exceptions. Some of the noteworthy accomplished individuals would include the recent Nobel prize winner in chemistry, an Egyptian immigrant by the name of Ahmed Zewail; the movie actor, Omar Shariff, who actually was born a Christian but converted to Islam; the basketball player, Hakim Olajuwon; and the model, Iman.
There are tensions between the many Muslim groups in this country, not surprisingly as peoples who have never been together or have a history of dispute together are thrust into one community. Iranians and Iraqis or Iraqis and Kuwaitis have tensions between them. There are ethnic prejudices, there are political differences, there are religious differences, but in all I think it's safe to say that there is an American-Muslim community that is in formation. However different the people who arrive may be, their children and grandchildren appear to taking on the identity of an ethnic Muslim-American as opposed to a Pakistan or Iranian or Egyptian American.
The children of the immigrants are a subject of great concern to the immigrants. The way of raising children in this country differs substantially from what one finds in the home countries. We have, to put it simply, a much more indulgent approach towards our children. This leads to many tensions between parents and children. Children want to be Americans. Parents want them to be as they were when they grew up. The particular problem arises with teenage girls who, just at the point in the home country they would have been veiled and segregated, in the United States they're out and loose. This has lead to many, many problems including the murder of a number of young Muslim women.
It is also a problem for the Muslim community that because the females are segregated, the males tend to go out and date non-Muslim women. One thing leads to another and you find that not an insignificant number marry non-Muslims. It is permissible, by the way, for Muslim men to marry non-Muslim women; it is not permissible for Muslim women to marry non-Muslim men. This means that the Muslim women are left high and dry. They have no Muslim marriage partners. This is a source of many, many discussions in the Muslim community.
Institutions were slow in developing among Muslim Americans. The first of them dated back to the 1950s, but the truly significant ones date only some 10-15 years ago. The striking fact is — I'm sorry, I'm saying national institutions as opposed to local institutions. The striking fact is that if one looks at the Muslim institutions as a whole —mosques, Islamic community centers, weekly newspapers, websites, national institutions, publishing houses, commercial ventures — the great majority of them, one Muslim leader has estimated 80 percent of them, are in the hands of militant Islamic elements. This gives the cast of official American Islam a radical flavor, which I don't think reflects the population as a whole but does very much affect the way in which the organized Muslim community interacts with the society and the government.
These organizations — and I would note three of them in particular, two Washington-based and one in Los Angeles. The two Washington-based are the American Muslim Council and the Council on American Islamic Relations; the L.A. based is the Muslim Public Affairs Committee. These three plus the many, many others tend to have an agenda that has four goals: to win special privilege for Islam, to intimidate and silence those who are opponents of militant Islam, to raise funds for, apologize, and otherwise forward the cause of militant Islamic groups abroad, and to sanitize militant Islam so it doesn't scare or offend anyone.
There is of course a history of terrorism among American Muslims, going as far back to 1980 when American converts to Islam murdered an Iranian dissident in the suburbs of this city, Washington, and reaching as recently as a month ago when an Egyptian limousine driver went to the Los Angeles international airport and murdered two people there. This is a distinct characteristic of the Muslim-American community that makes it different from any other immigrant community.
Looking at this question as a whole, it is a — we are in the process of watching a community develop its characteristics. Many things are still unclear about the future, but a few things are clear. One is that the Muslim immigrants, as opposed to the converts and their progeny, are likely to set the tone of this community and its goals, its achievements, its problems. Fashioning a distinct American Islamic identity is a challenge and also a great achievement. It is something that has particularly important implications for the Muslim world. I think there's a possibility that Muslim Americans will develop a synthesis, will modernize the religion in a way that has escaped Muslims in Egypt and Pakistan and elsewhere. It is a very, very significant relationship for both parties, the Muslim and the American.
Looking finally at policy implications, Dr. Camarota mentioned foreign policy. I would suggest that there are far deeper implications for the United States as well domestically. Militant Islam is a threat, is a challenge to the United States. Its ambitions are very great. They're not limited to foreign policy but seek also to change the very nature of the United States. To put it simply, where there are differences between Islam and American ways, the militants want to change America and make it Islamic. This is going to be, I believe, a significant issue in the years ahead.
Finally, let me conclude by bringing this to the topic of immigration policy. I think the prevention of militant Islam — preventing militant Islam from reaching the United States is a very great priority in immigration policy. This is our enemy. We must not let it into our house. This requires close scrutiny, and I think what this means, in particular, that in addition to the standard and historic filters for — and possible visitors' or immigrants' health, wealth and criminal record — we should also be looking very closely at a person's politics and ideology. It is imperative that we not let in people who hate this country and who would do it harm. This requires close scrutiny background checks and the like. I'm not in the position to tell you exactly how this can be done at this time but I think the principle must be established that those who in any sense ascribed to militant Islam are not welcome here.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Thank you, Daniel.
PETER SKERRY: Good afternoon. It's a pleasure to be here. It's indeed an honor to come and speak at a forum sponsored by the Center for Immigration Studies, which I think has played such a positive and constructive role over the last decade or so in terms of the continuing debate over immigration policy in the United States. And it's certainly a pleasure to be here and comment or participate in this discussion on Steve Camarota and Daniel Pipes' work, both of whom I've learned a lot from in various ways in the current context of their contributions today but also certainly in immigration policy, in the impact of immigrants in regard to Steve's work and certainly from Daniel Pipes and his career-long commitment and contribution to the study of Islam, from which I have indeed learned much.
Turning to the matter at hand, it seems to me if there's one positive result that we could discern from the horrors of September 11 it's that at least for a while we've put an end, I think, to the romanticization of immigration and immigration policy in the United States. We've finally stopped talking about immigration as just a matter of economics, as just a market concern. We've finally stopped talking about immigration as stories about our grandmothers. And I too have an immigrant grandmother, but I don't often talk about it because I'm not sure — in fact I'm convinced it's not terribly relevant. But we've heard many fewer of those such stories. We've heard almost no stories about immigrant housekeepers or computer programmers unless it's in the broader context of what happened in September, and I think that's all to the good because there are anecdotes and then there are anecdotes. And those ones, in particular, I think have ill-served us in this romanticizing tendency that we have and have had in the United States about immigration.
But there's also some fearsome negative consequences, clearly, after September 11 in regard to how we think about immigration. Because it's clear as well that September 11 and it's aftermath has reinforced the tendency for us to indulge another aspect of American culture, which is to turn immigration into a melodrama, a conflict between the good guys and the bad guys. And I think we have to avoid from having gone from one extreme to another, and it remains to be seen whether we will avoid that. I think our country has and the current administration has, by and large, acquitted itself fairly well in that regard, but we are hardly out of the woods.
I think the question — one broad question that I think is on the American public's mind about Arabs — Arab immigrants and specifically Muslims and Muslim immigrants — is the question of assimilation; how they're going to or whether they're going to adapt to American values and institutions. Do we have a fundamental clash of cultures here? There's been a definite tendency to talk about Muslims and Muslim immigrants in the United States as some kind of giant cultural hairball that somehow we won't be able to digest, to get down, to deal with, and I think that's not the case, which isn't to say we don't have concerns but legitimate concerns about how this process is going to unroll.
Let me focus on some of the problems that I see in this regard and then some of things that I don't think are problems. Clearly, there's a substantial set of cultural or value-oriented gaps between Muslims and the mainstream of American culture — Muslims as they come here from their countries of origin. And it's striking, I think, from somebody who's looked at other immigrant groups, that that gap is much larger, say, than between immigrants from Mexico and Latin America and the United States than it is for Muslims. It's much larger, obviously, for Muslims. And there are some troubling indicators that fall from that, it seems to me, troubling indicators and troubling signs.
One of the few but quite good studies — an ethnographic study of a Lebanese Shiite community in Dearborn, conducted by the anthropologist, Linda Walbridge, cites some of these trouble signs; cites the fact that during the controversy over Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa against the British writer, Salman Rushdie, that she found overwhelming support for Khomeini's position among the people she had spent years living and talking with and writing about. These ordinary people who otherwise wouldn't be very interested in politics, good people in her estimation but people who very instinctively supported Khomeini's fatwa. That, I think, is one such trouble sign.
Daniel Pipes has mentioned the episodes of fathers killing their daughters — Muslim fathers killing their daughters. It happened more than once over issues of their adulthood: their sexuality, their choice of marriage partners or dating partners. Or, on a much more mundane level, in one of the few systematic studies we have of Muslims in the United States, by Loomis and Haddad, the striking finding that 61 percent of Pakistani Muslims disapprove of the act of their women shaking the hands and greeting of men that they do not already know. That clearly is a kind of — a stricture that's at odds with American conventions.
All of these things speak, of course, to the fact that Islam is a religion that's focused on —built around its practices much more than its beliefs. That it's — as the students of it put it, it's much more preoccupied with orthoproxy than orthodoxy. It's also the case that Islam is an extraordinarily — is a very political and public religion. Something that Daniel Pipes has written about with great clarity is that Muslims are not — Islam is not a religion of individual salvation as Christianity has been historically, and that Muslims in fact are commanded to do what is good and to forbid what is evil, a very public communal-oriented dictum.
It's summed up rather well in an anecdote that Bernard Lewis tells about his experience, having been in Paris, giving a talk where he met a young man who had seen him on television the night before; a young, apparently Muslim-French speaker. But he identified himself to Lewis as saying, well, my father was a Muslim but I'm a Parisian. I think, speaking to the conflux of two all-encompassing identities, Islamic on the one hand the French on the other, I think to our credit and to our strength, of course, we in America don't have such overriding conflicts, in my opinion, over ethnicity. We have a much broader, more variegated middle ground where I think we can see some much more encouraging signs. But it does speak, nevertheless, to this all-encompassing nature of Islam. It is a way of life, and hence there are some concerns here about how Muslims will adapt to our values and culture.
But having said that, my investigations into the evidence at hand, especially ethnographic kinds of studies, survey studies, looking at how this process is unfolding with Muslim immigrants, I think one sees many signs of assimilation and change. One, in fact, sees many instances, and I think not isolated but across the board and in a very general way, a process not unlike what we've seen with other immigrants, in terms of individuals and families picking and choosing, adapting in their own idiosyncratic ways, making accommodations and compromises in the day-to-day exercises of their religion or their culture, picking and choosing as best they can, whether that's Walbridge talking about an imam in Detroit, expressing outrage that women — this is back in the '60s and '70s for sure, women showing up at the mosque in curlers and not showing proper respect, and finally — (audio break) —quantities. People are hypocrites, people do not always do what they say, or they should do or want to do, and one sees all sorts of signs of this among Muslim immigrants.
More systematically, it's quite evident that mosques in the United States, I think, are venues of change and assimilation. The role of women in American mosques is quite striking. One doesn't find any female imams, to be sure; one doesn't find any females for the most part, or maybe at all, on the boards of mosques, but one finds women playing an active role in various kinds of auxiliaries. One may find women segregated to one part of the mosque, but they are playing an active role, and it's quite clear from all the evidence that mosques in America are much different than they are in Europe and certainly in the Mid-East; that they are not exclusively male enclaves; that they are increasingly adapting and becoming more like the familiar American congregations with membership lists, well-established boards, the panoply that we associate with denominational religion in the United States. One can see that trend, I think, quite evidently. It's also true, as I'll address in a moment, that those mosques are also the place where there's infiltration and influence that gets exerted by the Saudis and other activists who have a very different conception of America and, indeed, of Islam. But I'll get to that in a moment.
I think that one of the strong findings that comes through in Daniel Pipes's paper as well as Steve Camarota's, is the evident diversity and indeed fragmentation of the Muslim community in the United States. That diversity and fragmentation clearly reflects the sources of origin of these immigrants, their being so numerous and such a great range from different parts of the world. But it also reflects the dynamic of being in the United States. It reflects, if you will, the engagement of Muslims with our religious freedoms and our pluralism, because I think it's quite evident that Islam in the United States is moving in new directions, moving in multiple directions and becoming more and more diverse and more and more fragmented in many regards in the United States.
Now, this can be good for good and ill, of course. In the same way that we have — Westerners at the end of the 19th century were quite concerned that the Germans who came and moved into their rural communities pursued American ends in apparently rather un-American ways, which is to say that those German immigrants in rural communities often isolated themselves off in exclusively German-speaking enclaves, not abiding by American rural cultural norms at the time, sealing themselves off. That was a problem. But it was also Germans pursuing freedoms and opportunities that were very, very American; that they were given those options and they pursued them. Other Germans pursued different options, less troublesome to their American neighbors. But both go on, and I think one can see that similar dynamic among Muslims in the United States today, using our freedoms for good and for bad ends, or good or troublesome ends.
But those are all cultural and social questions which I think are obviously very important and germane to us, but I think where one wants to focus, and where some attention has already been focused, is in the political arena — in the political and leadership arena, if you will. Because I think this enormous diversity and fragmentation of Muslims in the United States is ultimately the source, and going to be the source I think of the most serious problems we face. And therein lies an irony because it also reflects the adaptation of Muslims to American circumstances.
What I mean by that is that this fragmentation and diversity essentially creates an enormous political and leadership vacuum. It's not at all clear how these congeries of different groups that come under this broad umbrella of Islam, how they're going to come together or if they're going to come together. But I would put much more emphasis on the how and less on the if because I think there is a strong tendency now, especially since September 11 —but I think it was happening even before then — for this political vacuum to be filled. In other words, there is a strong set of forces pushing for this vacuum to be filled and for this political leadership to be put forward and for this Muslim community, this Muslim-American community, to be created.
But that is obviously a long-term process, the outcome of which is very hard to determine, but particularly in this post-September 11 there are enormous demands and enormous pressures for that community to have a voice, to be represented in the councils of government and to represent its views to the American public and to play a role in our political system. But how does that happen when you have this huge diverse and fragmented agglomeration of different groups, all of whom call themselves Muslims?
Well, without the social ties, without the organic social ties that would bind all these different groups together, it seems to me there are several possible alternatives. One of them I've already suggested, that that vacuum will be filled by clever entrepreneurs. Those clever entrepreneurs could be the Saudis, who have clearly established a track record of supporting mosques in America or supporting Muslim schools, and have actively done so and are continuing to do so. Now, it's not clear to me how effective those efforts have been. In fact, my read of the evidence is that they haven't been very effective, but they are ongoing for sure and they speak to the need and the inevitability of some force with resources and commitment to move into this political and leadership vacuum.
Another scenario is that this vacuum will get filled by media-selected individuals, a dynamic that we're quite familiar with from American politics and other contexts. Obviously, those kinds of individuals that the media seek out and anoint to speak for a community ill defined tend to be the kinds of individuals who themselves seek out controversy and drama. Hence, they are not likely to be very representative individuals of the community, but they will play the role of spokesmen, nevertheless.
Alternatively — and none of these exclude one another, obviously — we'll see the vacuum filled by those motivated by ideology or political causes, whether it's the political cause of civil rights, building very much on the civil rights paradigm of African-Americans — which we can see happening already with CARE, which is one of the groups that Daniel Pipes mentioned. Whether that means it's a disloyal group or an Islamist group is another question, but it's definitely one path that might be followed and is being followed. Or we could find the issue of the Palestinians being a kind of glue, and I think there's already evidence clearly for this, given the attitudes that Steve Camarota has already educed among Muslims and Arabs in the United States, that the Palestinian cause and the cause of the Palestinian people could be the kind of cement that helps bring together this incredibly fragmented and diverse community.
So, the point I would end on is that while I think some good deal of attention is paid to the kind of clash of cultures, as one might put it, between Islam and dominant values in the United States — and I think that clashes there but I think it gets resolved and is getting resolved in many regards — I think it's in the political arena that we have many more concerns. In the political arena where ironically the openness of American society that allows for this diversity of Islam to flourish, at the same time is the same system in the same society where we clearly need, and Muslims in America want, to come together as a political community to speak and to have their interests represented. And it's in that political context, the need to overcome their fragmentation and diversity, given American political institutions today, I think that we have to be concerned about how that void, how that vacuum gets filled.
And with that I'll stop. Thank you.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Thank you very much, Peter.
Before we go to questions, Steve had one point he wanted to bring up to clarify something — (inaudible).
MR. CAMAROTA: Yeah, let me just run through some numbers real quick. Now, my study focuses on Middle Eastern immigrants, and, as I point out, it's not all Muslim. I estimate that there are 1.1 million immigrants who are Muslim from the Middle East — that is, foreign-born Muslims from that region. There are probably another 100,000 to 200,000 immigrants who are Muslim from outside that region, from Sub-Saharan African, from India, small numbers from China and the former Soviet Union and so forth. In addition to that, my numbers do not include the children or grandchildren of Muslim immigrants. And I would agree with what Daniel said. The number of people in the United States who are of immigrant ancestry rather than converts who are Muslim is probably 1.3 million immigrants and maybe 500,000-600,000 of their progeny, putting that number at somewhere around 1.8 (million), 1.9 million. And then of course there are the converts, maybe a million more, putting that number total at about 3 million.
But I just wanted to make that clear because I thought that perhaps some of the things he said would seem to be in conflict with some of the numbers I gave, but actually they line up very well because, remember, I'm only focusing here on immigrants from the Middle East, the percentage that is Muslim and non-Muslim.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Okay, well, I'll take the prerogative of the chair and ask the first question, which would be directed, I guess, to Peter and maybe to Daniel, but whoever wants to take it is fine.
The question of how Muslims and their children are going to assimilate, whether there's going to be a pan-Muslim identity or whether national origin groups will assimilate, that's an interesting question, but my question is, however that happens, does the central role of support for Israel in our foreign policy influence or color the assimilation of Muslim immigrants and their children? In the past as — Peter, you referred to the assimilation of previous ethnic groups — in the past assimilation was often facilitated by the overlap in the foreign policy preferences of immigrant groups and the federal government.
For instance, in the 19th century — through much of the 19th century, the hostility towards Britain that the Irish felt was actually shared by national policy. We think of our policy toward Britain differently, but in the 19th century it wasn't like that. Likewise, the foreign policy preferences of Eastern Europeans and Cubans and Southeast Asian immigrants dovetailed with U.S. policy during the Cold War. The big exception, obviously, is Germans during World War I, but even there immigration was stopped so that there was no prospect of ongoing mass immigration from Germany combined with a kind of tension or hostility or challenge with Germany.
So my question is, with high levels of immigration from the Islamic world combined with ongoing support for Israel, does that mean that the assimilation of Muslims and their children has the possibility of being colored in an anti-American fashion, an oppositional kind of fashion, and marked by ambivalence about America, even as those people become American in speech and occupation and residence and other ways? Do you see what I mean?
MR. SKERRY: First of all, Mark, I would emphasize that — I mean, Germans aren't the only example. To some extent, Italians were up to the period leading up to World War II, and even Irish were rather problematic in term of their loyalties during World War I. So it's not — and you didn't say this, but just to emphasize a point, it's not a totally historically unprecedented case — and, well, Japanese, okay, sure.
Having said that, I don't gainsay for a moment that you've put your finger on a real concern and a real problem, and I think the salience of the Mid-East and U.S. policy there to Arabs and Muslims in the United States being what it is — and it's enormous — I think this is a concern. But my estimation would be that it's going to play out in a more bifurcated way, which is to say there will be — I think it arguably will color assimilation, as you suggest it might, but that it will be done — that that assimilation and that challenge to U.S. policy in the Mid-East will be done in the name of American values, and they'll be differences of opinion over whether those — whether their pro-Palestinian positions will be, in fact, supportive of American values or not, but I think that's how it will be done; I think that's how it will be perceived by Muslim-Americans and Arab-Americans. And it will be contentious, but I don't know that it's going to be disloyal, and I don't know that it's going to retard assimilation into American institutions and life in the fundamental way that I think your question suggests it might.
MR. PIPES: Two points. First, if we look at Table 1 in Steve's study, the largest immigrant populations come from Iran, Pakistan, Israel, Iraq, Bangladesh, Turkey, Egypt and Lebanon. Clearly, most of the Muslim immigrants are non-Arab. For example, the Pakistani immigrants have a higher priority for the Kashmir issue than for the Arab-Israeli issue, so I think one has to keep it in context of the population that's here.
Secondly, yes, the Arab-Israeli conflict is an irritant. It does create a division between the general Muslim outlook and the general American outlook, and as such is a problem. But let's for a moment imagine that the United States had a rapid and complete change in policy and adopted one that was along the lines of what most Muslims would like in this country. I would then ask, would this make a fundamental change in the sort of tensions and issues and challenges that exist, and the answer would be very clearly, no. The Arab-Israeli conflict is an irritant, it's not a cause — it is not the dominant factor. There are significant — I'm certainly less sanguine than Peter is about the future prospects. I think there are some significant confrontations that loom ahead, and in those confrontations the Arab-Israeli conflict is an irritant but not a cause.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Go ahead, yes.
QUESTION: My name is Barry Jacobs from the American Jewish Committee. I was struck by something that Dr. Camarota said, that it wouldn't be fair to exclude or to distinguish between one group or another in allowing immigrant policy. The United States has just instituted a policy where they will begin to fingerprint any prospective visa applicants from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan and Libya, I believe. The 19 people who attacked the World Trade Tower and the Pentagon, et cetera, et cetera, did not have names like Steve or Mark; they did not have names like Pierre or Shlomo. They were clearly — 15 of them were Saudis, the rest were either from Egypt — clearly fairness has nothing to do with defending the United States. I think any government and any society would have the right to distinguish who does pose a threat and who does not pose a threat, and make those distinctions. And if they have not been made yet, the next time there is a terrorist attack, which everyone who deals with the issue, myself included, is going to have to within the foreseeable future, it will be made then.
MR. CAMAROTA: Yes, but I think what you may be confusing is relatively modest procedural things. Let me give you other examples. If you want to be a tourist from Poland you need a visa. If you want to be a tourist from Japan, you don't; you can come without a visa and simply show up at an airport. These are things that we do to people who are temporary visitors in the United States, and we might, for example, put a much higher level of scrutiny on temporary or even permanent visa holders from the Middle East before we allow them in the country. But what I would argue strongly is what will never happen and what will not happen — you know, it's not a debate worth having, is that the United States will simply not have immigration from the Middle East. We may cut immigration — for example, we may do away with the visa lottery, but if we're going to have a lottery it's going to include the Middle East.
Again, we might fingerprint and photograph people more vigorously who win that lottery from the Middle East, but it is just simply politically inconceivable that the United States would bar one region of the world for permanent residency visas. And of course, in the numbers that we're talking about, these people are overwhelmingly permanent residents. These are people who either came in on permanent visas or have subsequently become citizens after having first come in that way. And I feel that — in fact, it's almost not even a debate worth having. There is no way Congress will exclude one part of the world from green cards to the United States. It's too far from the spirit of modern America; again, greater procedural care, you know, more vigorous background checks for some part of the world and some changes in temporary immigration. Like, for example, I could imagine us not taking students from the Middle East, but again that's a relatively modest number and they don't even really show up that much in this data that we're talking about.
But the bottom line is that I think that, absent a change in U.S. immigration policy, a million people will settle permanently from the Middle East in the United States. I think that's inevitable.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Yes, sir, over there. If you could identify yourself.
QUESTION: Tom Sanderson from CSIS. This is for any of the panelists. Recognizing the positive presence of moderate Islam in U.S. presence, what is your reaction to recent reports of militant and extremist Islam being — or recruitment in U.S. prisons and mosques, especially in light of the recent arrest of — (off mike)?
MR. SKERRY: My response to the question is that it's a great question, but we don't know what the facts are. I've been looking into that very question, and, again, there's some troubling indications of — and certainly troubling charges that have been made, but it's very hard to know what's going on. Our prisons are extremely decentralized. It's hard to get into them, never mind knowing what's going on in such a dispersed system. But there's an enormous vacuum of information here, and great temptations to make sweeping broad charges, such as Charles Colson made in the New York Times a month, six weeks ago. But when you call up and try to find out exactly what the evidence is that Charles Colson deduced, you find out that there's not much there.
So I'm looking and I'll continue to look, but the answer is we don't know, I don't think.
MR. PIPES: The prisons were a prime recruiting ground for the Nation of Islam, starting in the very early days, the 1940s. Most notably, in 1949, Malcolm Little became Malcolm X in prison. The Nation of Islam saw the prison as prime recruiting ground for decades now.
Subsequently, normative Islam — that's the non-Nation of Islam, the normal Islam, standard Islam — took a cue from this; or to put it differently, many of the members of the Nation of Islam went on to become normative Muslims, and they brought the same practice. So, there has always been, since the '40s, and emphasis on recruitment — on conversion in prisons, and there are some rather spectacular results. One study found that one-sixth of all prisoners in New York state jails are Muslim.
The second point would be that the 80 percent figure that I quoted before about Islamic institutions being militant Islamic probably roughly applies to the imams as well, the religious figures, and probably applies — I'm speculating here, but probably some order of magnitude applies to those who are going to the jails. Therefore, I think the number of militant Islamic missionaries to the jails is a very significant one, and a very problematic one. Initially, the wardens didn't like Nation of Islam, didn't like having the presence of Islam, for obvious reasons, but eventually they became reconciled to it and rather encouraged it because it led to kind of a more organized and manageable prison population. So there have been no obstacles in the way that I know — no obstacles so far as I know in the way of these radical imams going to the prisons and making converts.
MR. SKERRY: Could I say one other thing?
MR. KRIKORIAN: Quick, yeah.
MR. SKERRY: I just want to be clear — and I don't know if Daniel Pipes is making this leap or not, but the fact that there is historic tendency for African-Americans in prisons to gravitate to Islam, and the fact that there are efforts in American prisons by militant Islamists to go into those prisons doesn't mean that African-Americans who convert to Islam are thereby persuaded. There have been lots of efforts by the Saudis to engage African-American Muslims and to support their mosques and to bring into Saudi Arabia for the Haj, but my reading of the evidence is that they haven't been terribly successful in persuading them to come over to their side. There's lots of cultural differences between the Wahabi version of Islam and what African-Americans see and practice. So I don't know if — I would be wary about making the leap that I have the feeling is in the air.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Georgianne?
QUESTION: (Off mike.) I was surprised at the numbers of Muslim schools, and I was not aware that there were this many Islamic schools, and I'm still not aware of how they were certified — (off mike). How did those schools start and what was the — (off mike)?
MR. SKERRY: Well, I have been looking into that too, Georgianne. I think the broadest answer, but germane to your question, is they started because we have a long tradition of pluralism in American education. We have the example of parochial schools. We have the example of private schools that are, to varying degrees, regulated. And I emphasize to varying degrees because in many parts of the United States, those private schools enjoy a tradition of not being very highly regulated.
If I may say so, your question sort of — I'm not sure whether you meant it or not, but sort of poses a kind of naivete about that history. I mean, I would urge you the next time you meet somebody who supports vouchers to ask them how they view about Muslims participating in those programs.
We have a tradition of pluralism in America, and Muslims are part of that. Does that have costs and does that raise concerns? Yes, but let's not pretend that we don't have the history that we have. We do have a history of pluralism where we tend not to regulate very heavily private religious schools. And if we want to revisit that, fine, but let's not pretend it just happened today for Muslims.
MR. PIPES: As I mentioned earlier, this subject of children is a touchy one, and keeping children out of American public schools has, from the beginning, been a high priority among American Muslim immigrants. Providing an Islamic environment, one, for example in which girls could wear the hijab, the head covering, and not feel ill at ease, not feel, you know, teased about it; one in which the sexes are separated; one in which, say, sports gear is modest; one in which of course there is an Islamic component in the curriculum, all this was a high priority. It has not always been easy. It takes resources. Not until recently did, for example, the Saudis take interest in this.
There are, I think — I'm not quite sure of my figures — something over a thousand Muslim schools in the country. The problem is that there was very little attention paid to them. And, again, quoting this 80 percent figure, the vast majority of these schools have a militant Islamic orientation. There have been some interesting studies — let me cite you two. In the National Post of Toronto there was a fascinating study — fascinating article on the fifth of January of this year about a school in the Toronto area that had essentially Pakistani madrassa curriculum. It only came to light because of an issue of sexual abuse. But the really interesting thing was the curriculum, that on the prairies of Canada essentially what you're getting is a replication of Pakistani agenda.
The Washington Post last October, I think 27th or 15th, I'm not sure, had a very interesting study of schools in this area, and the kind of attitudes of the principal and the teachers there. And just last Sunday, the fourth of August, the Pittsburgh Tribune Review had an extensive series of articles, some seven in all, about an extraordinary situation in which a school in the Pittsburgh area was very closely affiliated to the most radical — most radical — I mean, al Qaeda radical elements of — and all of these things were essentially unmonitored, you know, no one paid attention to them.
So, while I appreciate Peter's point that there is a long history of this, this isn't the same thing.
MR. SKERRY: Can I respond, please? I really must.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Really quickly.
MR. SKERRY: I appreciate Daniel's point, and I challenge him with enormous diffidence. Here's a gentleman who's spent his life and career understanding Islam in a profound way. But I have to say that the Washington Post didn't do a study of Muslim schools, it did an article on one school that is clearly funded by and set up by the Saudi embassy. There are hundreds of other Muslim schools in the United States that the Saudis have tried to support and — (unintelligible) — but I can tell you of lots of instances where those schools have either not taken advantage of the Saudi largesse or taken it and used it to their own purposes. But the fundamental reality is that we don't really know what's going on in these schools, and to cite one article in the Washington Post as a study I think is really misleading. We don't really know what's going on, and I would argue that the evidence suggests a different tendency.
MR. CAMAROTA: But let me at least make one point that's very important, and that is that it really is about numbers. If the numbers are smaller, it matters a great deal how many schools will be set up, depending on how many people we allow into the country. If there are only a few hundred thousand people, as was the case in 1980, you don't have the critical mass to create an enormous number of schools. Will there be schools, whatever the numbers are? Of course. But this discussion — we have to keep in mind that in the background, a very rapid growth in the numbers and that's what creates the ability to set up these schools.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Let's have two short questions and then short answers.
QUESTION: (Off mike.) I was struck in Peter's study on the dramatic increases — (off mike) — in Northern Virginia, and I was wondering if anyone would like to comment on why that is and why they — (off mike)? Is it a security threat for Washington?
MR. SKERRY: Well, I obviously didn't address the question of whether it was a security threat or anything like that. It is true that there is a lot of Middle Eastern settlement in the Washington D.C. Metro area. It does tend to be somewhat more Arab, but Pakistani as well, than in some other parts of the country — I mean, somewhat less Arab, I'm sorry.
I think that the reason that immigrants are drawn to the D.C. area are the same as for most other groups: decent, good job market, high-paying jobs. This is a relatively skilled flow of immigrants so it's a natural fit to an area that has a lot of demand for skilled workers. And what we have now is sort of — the groundwork has been laid. Again, absent a change in U.S. immigration policy, a lot of folks are going to come to this area simply because there is already existing communities and people tend to go where the economy is good and there area already, you know, networks of family and friends already here.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Let's take a last question, sir.
QUESTION: (Off mike.)
MR. KRIKORIAN: Please phrase it in the form of a question and do it quickly.
QUESTION: Just my question is, is there anything positive that can be done by the American media to help Muslims go over this immigration problem? (Off mike) — the Muslim community, in a way that helps the American society, the Muslim community and everybody?
MR. PIPES: Thank you. I think the most important thing that the government can do, the media can do, and other important institutions of American society, are to focus on the moderates and to promote moderation, to — for example, the media tends to focus on these three groups that I mentioned before. I don't think that's useful for anyone. There are alternative moderate groups, for example the Islamic Supreme Council of America, that should be the one quoted and gone to for response, but it tends not to be. So, in general, focus on the moderates, not on the radicals. Help the moderates.
MR. KRIKORIAN: I'll take a couple more — I'll relent. Yes, sir. Would you identify yourself?
QUESTION: George — (off mike). We have an enemy who is camouflaging themselves in this rather large, what's called a benign community. They've made themselves small — (off mike) — they've blown up our buildings and used our own institutions against us. How do we find our enemy?
MR. CAMAROTA: Well, I would say that one area where I guess I disagree a little bit with Dr. Pipes is that — or at least one thing I would add — he said we need to be very careful about who we're letting into the country, but I would argue that the current numbers of people that we are allowing into the country makes that almost impossible. If we took in fewer people it would mean we could devote greater resources to investigating the background of each individual allowed in, and it would also mean fewer people to keep track of within the United States.
The State Department, which processes visas overseas, is completely overwhelmed, by their own admission, by the numbers. The INS has over a four million backlog of cases: adjustment to status and so forth. The system is overwhelmed by the numbers. In that environment we simply don't have the institutional capacity to do what Mr. Pipes wants, which is look into people's background, try to figure out what's going on. The only way I can see out of that is to bring those numbers down to something much more manageable.
MR. PIPES: We're not disagreeing. What I'm saying is the priority must be on this careful scrutiny. If that means that existing resources have to be reallocated and the numbers are smaller, so be it. I think the priority is not the absolute numbers that come in, the priority is on our security. So we're not in disagreement.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Yes, Julia.
QUESTION: (Off mike.) My question is for Mr. Pipes. You said that we should screen out anti-American immigrants to this country. And do you think that the current laws — (off mike)? In the past, it is explicit that they could not look into their background. Do you think that there is sufficient — (off mike)?
MR. PIPES: Let me hand this over to Mark.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Actually, that's a good question, Julia. In 1990, Congress made it extraordinarily difficult to screen out people based on ideological concerns. This was a holdover of the battles in Central America over communists being excluded. And the law says that someone can't be denied a visa, a temporary visitor visa, because of his beliefs, statements or associations. So it is very difficult, but there is kind of an escape clause within the law if the State Department wanted to use it, to exclude people for foreign policy — because of foreign policy considerations.
In other words, the tool is there, it's very small, it's very narrow, and the State Department has to aggressively use that loophole. That's not happening, and it seems to me what would be more useful to achieve what Daniel has talked about is for Congress to speak again, to readdress the issue and make it explicit that visa officers should have sweeping authority to reject anyone who is an enemy of America, whether or not he has been running guns or has killed anybody yet.
Let's take one last question.
QUESTION: (Off mike.) Daniel, you mentioned — you talked about there being — the violence from the Muslim community as being very different from coming from any other communities. Is that correct, that you said it was kind of of a different nature because there were these — (off mike)?
MR. PIPES: Roughly speaking, yes.
QUESTION: All right. I was wondering — and any of you could perhaps speak to this — if there is any research on the violence of — (off mike) — particular that's very different than hate crimes recently? If you could address any of that.
MR. PIPES: Hate crimes vis-à-vis the Muslim-American community, there are two sets of statistics. And I can't give you exact numbers, but one are those that are compiled by the police and other law enforcement authorities on the one hand, and the second are those compiled by such institutions as the Council on American-Islamic Relations. They're very different. They show an order of magnitude difference. But even if one accepts the much higher levels of — no, there's no reason to accept it — the CARE figures are essentially fraudulent. They're premised on all sorts of unreported incidences, incidents which are false. This is exactly the sort of media attention that I decried in my last answer. CARE should be looked at as the Muslim equivalent of the Ku Klux Klan. Its figures should not be taken seriously.
If you take the law enforcement figures, you find that they're in fact very small. There were some incidents following 9/11, but in all I don't think you find a significant difference in violence towards Muslim-Americans as you might find towards Hindu-Americans or Jewish-Americans or others who are not Christian.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Thanks, Daniel. I would thank all of our panelists for participating. The papers that we've been discussing are on our website, https://cis.org/. And for those of you who can't get enough, on Thursday the 22nd here in the Press Club we'll have a panel on Canada's asylum system, and the challenges that poses for U.S. security.
Thanks a lot.