News outlets are reporting that the incoming Trump Administration is seriously considering establishment of a “registry” for Muslims. Politico recently quoted Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who says the effort is being modeled after the highly controversial National Security Entry-Exit Registration System implemented after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
When challenged about the constitutionality of such a measure, Trump supporters point to the “precedent” of World War II Japanese internment camps. Although that precedent has never been formally overruled, it is widely considered to have been a shameful departure from American principles, attributable to the stress of war.
Ordinarily, I would dismiss such stories, assuming that more responsible people would recognize the unAmerican nature and probable unconstitutionality of such a proposal; given the abysmal bona fides of those Trump has around him, however, I cannot simply assume that this effort will be still-born.
So here is what I propose:
If a Trump Administration attempts to require registration of Muslims, I intend to register, and I will encourage all of my friends and family to register as well.
One of the few positive stories that emerged during the Holocaust was the reported reaction of the Danes when, under Nazi occupation, Danish Jews were ordered to wear armbands with the infamous yellow Star of David. As the story goes, the Danish King and his subjects also donned the armbands, in a demonstration of the equality and solidarity of all Danish citizens.
Snopes tells us that the story is apocryphal, although the Danes did engage in heroic measures to save Danish Jews.
Although this legend may not be true in its specifics, it was certainly true enough in spirit. The rescue of several thousand Danish Jews was accomplished through the efforts of “thousands of policemen, government officials, physicians, and persons of all walks of life.” The efforts to save Danish Jews may not have had the flair of the “yellow star” legend, and they may not have required quite so many citizens to visibly oppose an occupying army, but those who were rescued undoubtedly preferred substance to style.
Sometimes, a morality tale can be more powerful than accurate history.
An actual effort to make Muslims register would be challenged immediately, and I have to believe it would be quickly enjoined, but the mere fact of the attempt would have a chilling effect on everyone’s religious liberties.
As a practical matter, if thousands of non-Muslim Americans publicize our intention to add our names to any registry–and if we announce that intention immediately in response to any trial balloon or actual proposal to create such a registry– we may be able to abort this insulting and demeaning and thoroughly unAmerican effort.
I hope these reports are wrong, but given the rhetoric of the campaign, Trump’s embrace of the “alt-right” (aka Nazis, White Supremacists and the KKK), and the nature of his inner circle, prudence suggests that we prepare for the worst.