It’s not terrorism, crime, or wage depression. We don’t have nearly enough of them for those to be major issues (yet). The real reason many don’t like Muslim immigration is this:
This is an excellent propaganda piece for our side. It’s easy for people to say that our country isn’t defined by religion, race, or culture, but to see that picture is to behold the abyss behind those thoughts. “We the people”, it says, meaning this is a picture of us, a picture of Americans. And yet, the first thing you think when seeing that woman is that she is foreign. Not only does she belong to a religion alien to our civilization, she maintains the style of dress and standard of modesty of an alien culture. To notice this is not to criticize. There is nothing wrong with the hijab, but it is not how we traditionally cover our women. Islam is a false religion, but so is Unitarianism, and we easily recognize the former but not the latter as foreign. This woman is probably not a terrorist. She might be able to recite the Constitution from memory, and her political philosophy might be identical to that of James Madison. According to liberalism, according to the First Amendment, she is as American as any one of us, because to be American means nothing more than to be committed to a certain set of procedures of government. If in a hundred years, all Americans were to look like this, liberalism demands you accept that nothing fundamental would have changed.
And yet we immediately sense that the woman in the picture is foreign–her image was chosen precisely for this reason, to show us the implications of our tolerance. If she is “we the people”, than what are we, the people belonging to America’s traditional culture? We are nothing; no such “we” is allowed to exist. No region of the country, no profession, and no association can admit that this woman is foreign to it. People say that Islam is the dog that pisses on every tree; where it comes, it owns. But even if our Muslim American harbors no such designs for supremacy, she delegitimizes our culture just by the fact that we cannot admit her foreignness. A Muslim America wouldn’t necessarily be a bad place. It might have any number of virtues. But would it really still be our country, the same country that exists right now?
Once, it was taken for granted that the United States of America is a Christian country. Then the Jews and atheists rose to prominence and banned Christmas; now we’re not allowed to think that anymore. Yet, we continued to assume that the United States is a Western country, that we are, culturally speaking, a part of Europe. This is nowhere formalized, but we had hoped that this cultural memory could survive as a ghost of our Christian-European past persisting among us even with no establishment to stand upon. Our English language might still tie us to the home country. Churches and cemeteries might remind us of the faith we once had. Shakespeare in public schools–or, failing that, at least Disney princess movies in the theaters–might keep our literature connected to its European sources. But this is just cultural inertia, and it cannot long withstand a determined campaign to strip the country of any cultural particularity.
Immigration should be controlled, but travel bans fail to address the real problem, which is not their hostility, but our emptiness. We cannot remain Western by mere inertia; we must do so by explicit political will. The ephemera of European civilization–the Trojan War, Robin Hood, Cinderella, church bells, classical music–won’t stand on their own. We must affirm the bases on which our particular culture stood, the bases of throne and altar. What bothers people about Muslim immigration won’t be fixed until Christianity is publicly recognized as the state religion. (Most likely, this would be a generic Protestant establishment of the sort that informally existed in the early republic. Even people like me would be recognized as somewhat foreign to the majority culture, although not nearly so foreign as I am often made to feel now in an America based on propositions I don’t believe.) Only that will keep us part of the West. To secure our own particular Anglo-Saxon culture, we must attach ourselves to its root. We must join the British Commonwealth and pledge our allegiance to its Crown.
Having thus asserted our essence, we can look more generously and honestly on others. If we can admit this woman is foreign, we needn’t pretend that there is something wrong with her. Of course we don’t think she’s a terrorist. Of course we don’t think she’s a threat to democracy. We would be happy to have her as a friend, but so long as she maintains her foreign ways she is not one of us. Admitting this would make it easier to accommodate the Muslims we’ve let in. Many of us would be less bothered by their increasing presence and visibility.