Saying No to a Registry for Muslims

According to media reports, political advisors close to Donald Trump are exploring the establishment of a registry for Muslim immigrants to the United States. The policy may extend as far as requiring all Muslim Americans to be signed up to a Government register.

No doubt such a decision will find many supporters, even among some Australians. It is likely that Trump policies may give greater voice to certain groups in Australia, and so as a way of pre-empting such conversations here, let me give 4 reasons why a Muslim registry is a really bad idea.

1. Lessons from history

When a Government decides to impose itself on a religious minority, hatred and intolerance is incited and people suffer. Is this not one of the plagues of the Islamic State? Indeed, in many Islamic nations non-muslim citizens are marked out and carry the burden of having to pay the Jizya.

Some commentators have already raised the example of Nazi Germany. On the one hand, I find it somewhat duplicitous  that ‘left’ leaning journalists are outraged when conservative commentators cite the example of Nazism, and yet they seem to have little qualm in using the analogy when it suits them. In this instance though, while being careful not to overdo the comparison, the question is not completely absurd.

2. Most Muslims are not terrorists

It would be foolish to deny a connection between Islamic beliefs and current terrorist activity across the globe. Whether it is IS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, and many others, one of the common threads is Islamic religion.

It is also the case that many nation states adhere to strict forms of Islam, and while we exchange trade and business with these countries, internally they impose a religion on their citizens that is often harsh, and where women are mistreated and non believers denied rights.

Without ignoring real ideological issues that are often found in cultures where Islam is dominant, this does not mean that the populations living in those countries are content with the status quo, or that they are potential insurgents laying in waiting. The reality is, millions of people are fleeing these countries in order to find a new life, a  better life.

Muslim people have been living in Australia since the 19th Century, and for the most part they are hard working contributors to our country. They are friendly, kind, and are important members of our diverse and pluralist society.

Should the many suffer indignity because of a few? Indeed, those few persons who are of concern to the Government, are they not already highlighted? If so, what is the point of another register which will require all Muslim people to be participants?

3. The hypocrisy

There is a hidden hypocrisy at work here, both in the political and religious arenas.

Over the last decade across Western Governments we have witnessed increased intolerance towards people whose religious convictions don’t conform to the secular humanist worldview, especially when it comes to the issues of sexuality and marriage. This has been evident both in the USA and Canada, and my own State of Victoria is among the leading examples of this Erastian movement. Those who have been working to remove Christian ethics in the public square may well cry foul over this proposed registry, but they do so from a position of illegitimacy.

This works both ways. So when Christians speak up and seek to defend their freedom of religious thought, speech and life, do we deny it for others?

It will be of no surprise to readers that I disagree with Islam, mormonism, atheism, and many other belief systems. These theologies hold a view of God that contradicts the person and teaching of Jesus Christ, and yet nation states are not Churches, they are (in our modern history) secular and pluralist institutions. As such, a functioning and maturity society will find ways for this diversity to cohere, and encourage public spaces for people to disagree and to debate with fervour and respect.

4. Threats of a registry creates fear and makes people vulnerable.

Would I like my own family to live in fear and with uncertainty, not knowing how the Government may act toward us, given our race or religion?

I know for a fact, many Victorian Christians have felt apprehension as our Government continues to pressure our children out of public schools, and we are experiencing uncertainty as legislation is introduced to control Christian Churches and organisations. Would we wish that on another minority group?

One American Muslim has written this,

“This is what it feels like to me now that the republican nominee is now the president elect.

He is the abuser. We are trapped. We are circling the wagons, trying to mitigate the damage by finding allies and waiting for the abusive behavior that we know is coming. We are sharing strategies on how to parent our children now that our president elect has taught them that being a racist, sexist, fear mongering, money hungry bully will get you the highest office in the nation.

We are trying to find the way to rebuild the inroads amongst ourselves while finding the strength and power to strategize how we can get free.

This is a far different place than I thought our nation would be today. I saw hope, I saw people of color being treated fairly. I saw refugees and immigrants being embraced for their unique potential; I envisioned a path towards unity. I live and breathe the mantra, Stronger Together every day.

Now I look out my door and wonder, which one of my neighbors thought it was a good idea to elect a president who wants to implement a Muslim registry. A database of anyone who practices Islam, so they can be watched and rounded up whenever he believes we need to be put in check.”

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Christians must speak up for our Muslim neighbours, not because we agree with their religion, but because they should not be discriminated against for their religious beliefs. They are citizens of our countries, and they are human beings who ought to be treated with dignity and kindness.

There is no doubt, Donald Trump’s ascent to the Presidency has sent many social progressives into cardiac arrest. What many thought was an inevitable social engineering quest from the left has become not so assured. Perhaps the rise of Trump will only prove to be a temporary swing of the pendulum, but for now, the shift is real and no one yet knows how far it will move.

Many Christians will be thankful that they may find some reprieve after years of pushing and shoving from social progressives, but I don’t believe we should be rejoicing at the prospect of a Trump Presidency.

As calls are made for a Muslim registry, Christians would do well to remember people like Naaman, the Samaritan woman, and the jailor in Philippi. Ask ourselves, how do we love our neighbours? Should we cause them to fear, or should we protect them? I reckon we would do well to reread Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan,

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

(Luke 10:25-37)

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