After Donald Trump said what he said about banning Muslims from America…..actually, as a point of order, let’s see exactly what Trump did say:
“We need a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States while we figure out what the hell is going on.”
The key phrase being “total and complete shutdown”, which seems to suggest banning even American citizens who happen to be Muslim. In the wake of this comment, the other Republican candidates finally spoke up about something outrageous and hateful Trump had said. Many of them cited the fact that moderate Muslims are key figures in the fight against Islamic fundamentalism. But they didn’t actually even need to go that far. Religious freedom is one the main cornerstones of the whole idea of the United States of America. To ban people on the basis of their religious faith would not only be unconstitutional (and as a result, I’m pretty sure not even enforceable in the case of US citizens), it would go against the whole ethos of the country.
As a result of this horrid utterance from Trump there have been calls to ban the presidential candidate from the UK. What do I think of the idea of banning Trump from the country? It’s actually a tough one, but on balance I would say, no, we shouldn’t ban the man from Britain. Partially because I am against such measures in all but the absolute most extreme circumstances (I think too many people are banned from this country on the grounds of what they have said in the past already); partially I think such measures give guys like Trump more oxygen for their ideas. It feeds into their narrative of “political correctness gone mad”, this notion that “the truth” can’t be uttered anymore due to “vested interests”.
Yet, I can sympathise with those wanting to institute such a ban because I don’t think Donald Trump really understands how sinister what he’s proposing really is. The ISIS line is that the West ultimately is no place for Muslims; that they will be rejected by a Christian society on the basis of their faith at some point. How great would Trump’s proposal be for their propaganda machine if enforced? And for the record, I do not subscribe to the “that’s exactly what ISIS want us to do” line of thinking – they are a fundamentally illogical construct and thus doing what they want us to do isn’t always necessarily the wrong move – but there is a point at which you really are feeding them what they are after to the detriment of western society.
This is also how fascism starts: when ideas such as taking away rights from people based on their religion start to be uttered by mainstream political figures. I really fear that western society is approaching a tipping point at which all sorts of hateful things become more and more tolerated within western thinking (take the debate on immigration over the past decade as a prime example). What do liberals do about it? Banning people from the country based on something they said is pretty illiberal. But so is doing nothing while society gets ever more illiberal itself.