In the discussion thread under our previous post, a commenter directed our readers’ attention to an article by Megan McArdle on the question of settling “Syrian” “refugees” in the United States. Further discussion ensued.
Ms. McArdle’s essay is helpful in that it identifies six low tactics that proponents of Syrian refugee resettlement have been using: Bible-beating, mockery, falsehood, mawkish incomprehension, straw-manning, and Western self-flagellation.
She then presses her case for U.S. resettlement with familiar arguments: we’ve assimilated all sorts of others before now; previous waves of immigrants were also regarded with a wary eye, but look how well it all worked out; most Muslims aren’t terrorists; etc.
She then says this sensible thing:
As long as you believe that it’s a good thing to help strangers at some sufficiently small cost to yourself, then we can have a reasonable discussion about whether the costs outweigh potential benefits.
That’s fair enough, I think. I’ll be happy to reply on her terms.
Ms. McArdle’s argument overlooks many important points. Here are some of them.
1) Previous waves of immigration had several distinctive differences. In particular, these were:
• The immigrants were, almost without exception, white Europeans — and with the exception of a relatively small number of European Jews, they were all white European Christians. While there was of course some cultural distance between many of these immigrants and the nation’s founding British and Dutch stock, it was nothing like the cultural, linguistic, religious, and yes, genetic distance between that founding stock and the immigrants now pouring across our borders from the Third World. As recently as my own boyhood, the population of the United States was, to within a rounding error, 90% white people of European Christian stock, and just under 10% black. We are now in hitherto uncharted waters, and citing the history of assimilation from that very different epoch of American immigration is not nearly as relevant as refugee-settlement enthusiasts would like to imagine it is.
• These prior waves of American immigration happened at a time when America’s population was much smaller, and when there was much greater opportunity for low-skilled labor.
• When the last wave of mass immigration ended in 1924, America was a very different place. There was as yet no welfare state; immigrants were expected to fend for themselves, and to join the American monoculture. Moreover, it was followed by a four-decade moratorium that made it possible for the nation to digest and and assimilate the great waves of migrants it had just admitted. Now we have had, without respite, a half-century of mass immigration that has caused the foreign-born population of the nation to increase more than fourfold, while the sources of this immigration have completely changed, with Britain and Europe now contributing a negligible share. At the same time, unsurprisingly, we have gone from cultivating pride in America’s traditional culture to denouncing and rejecting it in favor of chaotic multiculturalism. It has always been difficult to assimilate new arrivals, but now not only do immigrants tend to be from radically alien cultures, but we have almost completely dismantled the social structure that once encouraged them to assimilate. (Indeed, we have reached the point where expecting them to do so is tantamount to “xenophobia”.) By providing education and other public services in foreign languages, we reduce the incentive to learn English; by providing lavish social programs and public assistance we reduce the incentive to assimilate through the workplace; and by celebrating “diversity” while denigrating the traditional American nation we encourage separateness and even resentment.
2) Most of the migrants we are proposing to settle are Muslims, and Islam is unique. Unlike the Christian faith to which nearly all pre-1965 immigrants belonged, Islam is much more than just a religion; it is also a totalizing, all-encompassing and ruthlessly expansionist political and ideological system. Here are some of its special qualities:
• Unlike Christianity, Islam is, in its very essence, a literalist religion. Its most basic tenet, its doxastic bedrock, is that its holy Scripture, the Koran, is the literal word of Allah, as dictated to Muhammad. Because the Koran is holy as an extension of God Himself into the mortal world, its literal text is therefore holy to Muslims in exactly the same way that Jesus is to Christians. To deny this is, simply put, to reject Islam.
• Islam makes no distinction between the temporal and the sacred. The teachings of Islam are all-encompassing, and address every aspect of life. Muhammad not only brought God’s law to the world, but as God’s Messenger and the most perfect interpreter of God’s will, during the Prophet’s lifetime he was also the temporal, political, and military leader of the faithful — and so gave Muslims, for all time, an infallible example for all of public and private life. The Shari’a, being God’s law, is and must be supreme; to place the laws of Man above the laws of God is therefore a supreme heresy. The very idea of “separation of Church and State” — or, in Christ’s words, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” — is in Islam an arch-absurdity: everything is God’s.
• Jihad and expansionism are central to Islam; to fight unbelievers “until there is no more Fitnah [unbelief] and worship is for Allah alone” is the highest calling. This is why the term for all those parts of the world that have not submitted to Allah is “Dar-al-Harb”, or “House of War”.
• What all of this means is that Islam is fundamentally incompatible with Western norms, and that no pious Muslim can ever truly assimilate into Western secular societies. As I have written elsewhere:
The problem for the West, and for “moderate” Muslims living here, is that Islam has a perpetual, self-renewing wellspring of fundamentalism at its core. That there may always be some more liberal and secular Muslims at the fringes of the Ummah, and rifts within Islam itself over who is an apostate and who isn’t, is irrelevant.
What matters is that due to the unique nature and origins of Islam there has always been, and will always be, a powerful and persistent gravitational pull away from modernizing reforms, and toward fundamentalism — and this will always be a source of tension and conflict wherever there are large communities of Muslims living in the West.
We must keep in mind the certainty that whenever we settle any sizable number of Muslims in the West, we are also introducing a sympathetic “fifth column”, partial to the central Islamic mission of conversion, subjugation, or destruction, that will include a significant percentage of the numbers we admit. Think of the partisanship and fervor with which great numbers of Westerners now embrace the mission and the tenets of their secular religion: egalitarianism, universalism, wealth redistribution, global warming, non-discrimination, and so on — and remember that Muslims have a religion too.
3) We need not theorize about the effect of establishing large and expanding Muslim populations in Western societies; we have instructive and concrete examples before our eyes. In every European nation that has permitted substantial Islamic immigration, the results have been the same. Look at France, England, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Denmark, Greece, and Italy, to name a few, and ask yourself if they are better off now — happier, more cohesive, safer, better able to operate as well-functioning social-welfare states — than they were before this madness began, when they had their ancestral homelands to themselves.
4) Immigration is the most difficult of all social policies to undo. Laws can be repealed, and agencies defunded, but demographic changes — especially those that introduce new populations with much higher birthrates than the natives — are, barring mass deportation, or worse, wars of “ethnic cleansing”, irreversible, and it is often impossible for a nation to know that it has passed a critical demographic “tipping point” until it is already too late. This alone makes an extremely powerful argument for supreme caution regarding refugee and immigration policy, especially at a time of increasing racial, ethnic and political tension.
5) As Mark Krikorian points out, it is economically inefficient to succor Mideastern refugees by bringing them here. In a recent article on this subject, he wrote the following:
The Center for Immigration Studies, which I head, recently calculated that it costs twelve times as much to resettle a refugee in the United States as it does to care for the same refugee in a neighboring country in the Middle East. The five-year cost to American taxpayers of resettling a single Middle Eastern refugee in the United States is conservatively estimated to be more than $64,000, compared with U.N. figures that indicate it costs about $5,300 to provide for that same refugee for five years in his native region.
We can help more people for less money, and at the same time avoid all the serious problems noted above, by helping them “over there”.
6) We have no way of “vetting” these “refugees”, or even of knowing who or what they are or where they really come from. Syrian passports are easily available on the black market, and various Islamist groups have made no secret of their intention to move as many jihadis as possible into the West under cover of this mass migration. Unless we can positively identify applicants as already known to us, we have almost nothing to rely on when “certifying” them; they come from ungoverned places, and any documents they might carry can easily be fraudulent. (And as I asked in my previous post: how can you “vet” beliefs, allegiances, sympathies, hatreds, and intentions?)
7) The overwhelming majority of the “Syrian” “refugees” now inundating Europe are young, military-age males, which is a very unusual composition for refugee flows. Why, we might ask, have they abandoned their homelands, their women, and their children, to flee to safety and relative comfort in the West? If the United States were to face an internal enemy like ISIS, don’t you think young American males — at least those worthy of our respect and our assistance — would stay home and fight? Why don’t these young men?
8) Even the settlement in the West of Muslim women and children bears a hidden cost, in that it is often the children and grandchildren of Muslim immigrants — those who are poorly assimilated, yet have no memory of the hell their parents fled to come to the safety and prosperity of the West — who are most easily radicalized, and become the “home-grown” threat we now face all over Europe, and here at home.
Given all of this, then, I think that the balance of the arguments falls strongly against the resettlement of Muslim refugees in the United States, and that the governors and legislators who have opposed the idea, along with a large majority of Americans, are right to do so. To denounce and rebuke such prudence as mere bigotry or xeno-“phobia” is as foolish as it is morally obtuse.
Postscript, November 22nd: As I write, the ancient city of Brussels — the capital city of united Europe — has been under lockdown since yesterday in response to a threat of “imminent” terrorist assault, while New York City, though separated from the heart of Islam by thousands of miles and a vast ocean, is mounting major anti-terror exercises.
As the far-seeing Lawrence Auster wrote long ago:
This is our future, FOREVER, unless we stop Muslim immigration and initiate a steady out-migration of Muslims from the West until their remaining numbers are a small fraction of what they are now and there are no true believers among the ones that remain. Travelers from Muslim countries must be tightly restricted as well. Muslims must be essentially locked up inside the Muslim lands, with only carefully screened individuals allowed into the non-Muslim world.
The enemy are among us, in America, in Britain, in the West, and will remain so until we remove them from the West and indeed from the entire non-Muslim world. As extreme as this sounds, it is a no-brainer. There is no other solution. All other responses to this problem add up to meaningless hand-wringing. The hand-wringing will go on FOREVER, along with the terrorist attacks and the threat of terrorist attacks, until we take the ONLY STEPS that can actually and permanently end the threat.