A hundred years ago, Muslims were furious over an immigration bill whose origins lay with advocacy by a headstrong and loudmouthed Republican in the White House. The anti-Muslim immigration bill offended the Ottoman Empire, the rotting Caliphate of Islam soon to be defeated at the hands of America and the West, by banning the entry of “all polygamists, or persons who condone the practice of polygamy.”
Frontpage Mag (h/t Damien) This, as was pointed out at the time, would prohibit the entry of the “entire Mohammedan world” into the United States. And indeed it would.
The battle had begun earlier when President Theodore Roosevelt had declared in his State of the Union address back in 1906 that Congress needed to have the power to “deal radically and efficiently with polygamy.” The Immigration Act of 1907, signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt, had banned “polygamists, or persons who admit their belief in the practice of polygamy.”
It was the last part that was most significant because it made clear what had only been implied. The Immigration Act of 1891 had merely banned polygamists. The newest law banned anyone who believed in the practice of polygamy. That group included every faithful believing Muslim.
The Ottoman Empire’s representatives argued that their immigrants believed in the practice of polygamy, but wouldn’t actually take more than one wife. This argument echoes the current contention that Muslim immigrants may believe in a Jihad against non-Muslims without actually engaging in terrorism. That type of argument proved far less convincing to Americans then, than it does today.
These amazing facts, uncovered by @rushetteny reveal part of the long controversial history of battles over Islamic migration into America.
Muslim immigration was still slight at the time and bans on polygamy had not been created to deliberately target them, but the Muslim practice of an act repulsive to most Americans even back then pitted their cries of discrimination and victimhood against the values of the nation. The Immigration Act of 1907 had been meant to select only those immigrants who would make good Americans. And Muslims would not.
In his 1905 State of the Union address, President Theodore Roosevelt had spoken of the need “to keep out all immigrants who will not make good American citizens.”
Unlike modern presidents, Roosevelt did not view Islam as a force for good. Instead he had described Muslims as “enemies of civilization”, writing that, “The civilization of Europe, America and Australia exists today at all only because of the victories of civilized man over the enemies of civilization”, praising Charles Martel and John Sobieski for throwing back the “Moslem conquerors” whose depredations had caused Christianity to have “practically vanished from the two continents.”
While today even mentioning “Radical Islam” occasions hysterical protests from the media, Theodore Roosevelt spoke and wrote casually of “the murderous outbreak of Moslem brutality,” describing the “mass of practically unchained bigoted Moslems bent on driving out the foreigner, plundering and slaying the local Christians.”
American concerns about the intersection of Muslim immigration and polygamy had predated Roosevelt, Taft and Wilson. The issue dated back even to the previous century. An 1897 edition of the Los Angeles Herald had wondered if Muslim polygamy existed in Los Angeles. “Certainly There is No Lack of Mohammedans Whose Religion Gives the Institution Its Full Sanction,” the paper had observed.
It noted that, “immigration officials are seriously considering whether believers in polygamy are legally admissible” and cited the cases of a number of Muslims where this very same issue had come up. A New York Times story from 1897 records that, “the first-polygamists excluded under the existing immigration laws were six Mohammedans arrived on the steamship California.”
None of the laws in question permanently settled the issue. The rise of Islamist infiltration brought with it a cleverer Taquiya. The charade that Muslims could believe one thing and do another was dishonest on the one hand and condescending on the other.
It was a willful deception in which Muslims pretended that they were not serious about their religion and Americans believed them because the beliefs at stake appeared so absurd and uncivilized that they thought that no one could truly believe them.
Even a hundred years ago, Islam was proving to be fundamentally in conflict with American values. Then, as now, there were two options. The first was to pretend that there was no conflict. The second was to avert it with a ban.
A century ago and more, the nation had leaders who were not willing to dwell in the twilight of illusions, but who grappled with problems when they saw them. They saw civilization as fragile and vulnerable. They understood that the failure to address a conflict would mean a loss to the “enemies of civilization”.