In his recent outstanding Observer essay, “The Four Foundational Dilemmas in Fighting Radical Islamic Terrorism,” University of California-Irvine’s Peter Navarro urges us to abandon “political correctness, legality and morality” for an important, urgent thought experiment.
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Might heightened surveillance, torture, internment and immigration bans keep us safe from “the extreme threat of Islamic terrorism?” His subtitle tells you his answer: “Maybe Donald Trump has a point.”
That craven, pusillanimous "maybe," summarizes my opinion of him.
Navarro’s argument isn’t upsetting because it proposes shocking collective punishment having adjudicated collective guilt. Or because it hides a prescription for fascism behind a pathetic plea for “debate and reason.” It’s that his assumptions and his prescriptions just don’t match up. The former are incendiary. The latter are lukewarm. He hasn’t gone too far. He’s not gone nearly far enough. Navarro lacks the courage to face up to the inevitable consequences of his own convictions.
If you're gonna do a thought experiment, go all the way.
If, for example, Islam really is "not just a religion," as Navarro claims, but in its most intense form "a zero sum jihad aimed at wiping out all other religions," then how are any of his solutions going to be nearly enough?
Let’s consider the mooted immigration ban on Muslims, the idea Trump raised and which Navarro all but enthusiastically endorses.
How is an immigration ban going to solve the problem of extremism?
There are already large numbers of Muslims in Western societies, and a significant percentage of these are descendants of converts (and more people convert to Islam every day). Many Western Muslims hold prominent positions in society: they are soldiers, members of Congress, media personalities, celebrities, and may include the President, at least according to the candidate Navarro is most aroused by. Even if you add in heightened surveillance - which can’t stop every crime, mind you - and internment camps, we’re not much safer.
For one, where would we place these camps? President Obama’s plan to shutter Guantanamo met resistance from local officials who objected above all to the presence of dangerous detainees in their backyards; who then would want larger numbers of Muslims in their backyards? Who would guard these camps? How would we pay for them? And if you put Muslims in one place, wouldn’t they begin to scheme and plot together?
The better solution, which Navarro lacks the guts to propose, is to deport all Muslims from Western societies, including anyone who might be Muslim.
Have a Muslim grandparent, like Obama? Check. Ever taken an Arabic course, dipped a pita chip into hummus, liked or recommended a Muslim physician, tipped an Uber driver (or be an Uber driver), grown a beard, dated a Muslim, accidentally smoked hookah, wrapped a scarf around your head in the biting cold, expressed interest in progressive politics? We all know the Communists and the Islamofascists are in league. They’re going to take over Western civilization.
Unless we stop them first. But even this peremptory deportation, as salubrious as it sounds, would not be enough. Because, first, how would we send them: Are there enough trains and planes? Second, where would we send them? Sure, you could deport a Turkish Muslim to Turkey, but where do you send Shaquille O’Neal, or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? (Maybe Saudi Arabia, because every other Twitter troll who insists Islamophobia is not racism nevertheless wants me to go “back” to Saudi Arabia, even though I’m not from there.)
Third, even if we found a country that was willing to welcome them, we’d only have postponed the reckoning, and maybe made it worse.
All those deported American Muslims would go back to their own countries with insider knowledge on America.
More critically, there would still be Muslims in the world, and as we know, even Muslims in faraway lands can plot acts of terror. So long as Islam is allowed to exist in the world, some Muslims, somewhere, will perchance discover what their religion is really about. The solution should be obvious, if even uncomfortable.
If we’re safer torturing suspected terrorists, surveilling Muslim communities still more intensively, detaining and interning Muslims, and banning them from their own countries, then aren’t we safest without any Muslims here - or anywhere?
We have to kill Islam before Islam can kill us.
Now, this might sound like genocide, but Islam is not a race, so it's not discriminatory genocide, it’s reasonable genocide. The glass half-full fascists would give Muslims every opportunity to abandon the Islamic ship - say, by asking them to convert to Christianity. For those who are more circumspect, we might simply eliminate all members of all ethnic groups that have converted, in substantial proportion, to Islam; if after all enough of you fall for Islam in the first place, there must be something a priori wrong with you. So Arabs. Persians. Punjabis. West Africans. Albanians. Bosnians. Malays.
And once we have cleansed the world of Islam, and burned, deleted and recycled Muslim sacred texts and traditions, we can return to our liberal, secular and pluralistic values, no worse for the wear.
You might believe this is satire, but I don’t. I think it’s the logical progression of the rhetoric we’ve been seeing (mostly but not only) on the right.
A majority of Americans want to close the doors on Muslims. Switzerland banned minarets. A far-right German party proposes banning mosques altogether. In France and Denmark, you can be Muslim, as long as you’re not identifiably Muslim.
Navarro cravenly claims he is concerned with national security. He's really not. What kind of newspaper publishes this kind of fascist bile? Probably one published by Donald Trump’s son-in-law. What kind of a person would want to publicly pursue a thought experiment that moots the possible benefits of torture, internment and detention?
If there is one upside to all this, it’s that we can begin to see who people really are. Peter Navarro hates Muslims. He loathes Islam. He would be so much happier if we never existed. And now that Donald Trump has given this timid man a little courage, he goes ahead and reveals what’s really in his heart. So let’s stop beating around the bush, and get on with it.
Haroon Moghul is a Fellow at the Institute of Social Policy and Understanding. He is a President of Avenue Meem, a new media company. Follow him on Twitter: @hsmoghul