A lot is being said about the impending Muslim Registry that Trump’s would-be Attorney General help establish after nine eleven and that, it seems, is likely to be reinstated. Some people have also suggested that it will go through the legislative process and also the judicial oversight and that in the end, it would not be the kind of “crude” policy that Trump suggested during his campaign speeches and interviews.
I was a graduate student at Florida State when the Bush administration enacted the registration requirements for male non-immigrants from certain countries. I had to report to Jacksonville INS office for an interview. The interview was intrusive and I had to provide my credit card information as well as my bank information. The interview followed with a detailed biometric recording (fingerprints, picture etc.).
This process continued even after the initial interview, as those of us coming back to the US after visits to our families had to go through “special processing’ at the port of entry. Usually, the immigration officials would direct you to a separate area where you will encounter men of different hues and origins, all waiting to be interviewed. Other than causing unnecessary delays, I don’t recall it being in any way effective in safeguarding US security. In my case, being a Pakistani while I was being “special-processed” my country and its soldiers and civilians were dying fighting the terrorists as US allies. Of course people like me went through these indignities because we were all in precarious life situations and we also understood the “need’ for such gestures after a huge US national tragedy.
The reinstating of this policy is totally different: Mr. Trump and his ilk are reinstating it not because of an imminent threat, but because he singled out Muslims during his campaign. His anti-Muslim rhetoric, therefore, was a part of his political campaign. He is, therefore, fulfilling a campaign promise: to “extremely vet” Muslims! This is the important thing to note: in the twenty-first century America a candidate for the US presidency ran on creating exceptional policing and security regulations for a whole religion, and his constituents and supporters VOTED for it!!
The registry, if it happens, is not just a necessary administrative step: it is now a part of the mainstream American politics and it was one of the very few concrete things the president elect promised to his audiences. This public aspect of this policy and its acceptance by a large segment of American voters needs to be highlighted and remembered, for this means that a large segment of American people are fine with stigmatizing and policing a whole group of people as part of the state policy. And this acceptance, in my opinion, is more dangerous to the future of American democracy than many so-called global threats!