Trump’s Muslim Ban Is Impossible

Its’s Not Just A Reprehensible Idea, It’s Not Implementable

It is perhaps Donald Trump’s signature policy: the “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”. He made this announcement on December 7, 2015, five days after 14 people were killed and 22 wounded by two terrorists in San Bernardino, California. Polls taken in March showed that 71% of likely Republican voters, 34% of Democratic voters and 49% of Independent voters back this Trump policy ( This is perhaps Trump’s most popular “policy” and marked a turning point in his campaign. He has not distanced himself from this policy as doing so would be alienating to many.

While much has been made about how it is morally reprehensible to target adherents to a religion in this way, less has been made about how this ban is also, quite literally, impossible to enforce. Impossible unless we want to shut down travel from all countries in the world, which only Trump’s most die-hard supporters would want. I don’t think that most voters have really thought about this. Even if they think it is a good idea in principle, they should at least question Trump on the grounds that it is illogical and unenforceable.

Here is why banning Muslims is impossible. People who believe in Islam are white, black, Asian and every other ethnicity that you can imagine. They are not reliably distinguished by their names, their clothing, their language or anything else. It is true that the President can halt all visitation or immigration from any country or countries. So we could, for example, stop all travel to the United States by anyone from all Arab countries (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, etc.), Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Indonesia. These are all countries where over 80% of people are Muslim. While this would be horrendous for us economically, it is possible. Trump supporters are quick to remind us that Jimmy Carter banned travel to the US from Iran during and after the US Embassy hostage crisis. Where it gets tricky is how you go about banning Muslims who are from countries where they are not a majority. Because what is the point of trying to ban Muslims if you can’t ban them all — after all it only takes one or two to wreak havoc (so say the Trumpsters). The United Kingdom is approximately 5% Muslim and many other European countries have sizable Muslim minorities. Israel is 20% Muslim. India is 13% Muslim. Nigeria is 50% Muslim and Sub-Saharan Africa is 1/3 Muslim on average. Canada is 2% Muslim. So banning travel to the US for everybody from every country on Earth is obviously not going to work. Technically possible, but I think even most Trump supporters would admit that it is practically impossible (and undesirable).

What could be done to stop Muslims from entering the US? Well, the vast majority coming to the US will come by air so the focus would have to be on identifying and stopping Muslims before they get on planes or at the border. How would the government do this? Ask everyone on entry to sign a form stating that they are not a Muslim? This would certainly not stop terrorists. Think of some other ways in which the government could try to identify Muslims. They could force everyone entering the country to eat bacon (though this would surely offend religious Jews as well). They could force people to look at cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. You could torture suspected Muslims into admitting that they are believers. You could force everyone to swear on a Bible that Allah is not God. You immediately have to go to ludicrous, horrible places like this because it is impossible to come up with any rational process that would work to prevent people with certain thoughts in their head from entering this country. We have not yet invented mind reading.

The people who think that banning Muslims from coming to the US is a great idea should consider it is precisely these policies that terrorists want. They are trying to provoke a religious war. They want us to attack them. They want to create fear, hate and bigotry. The vast majority of people killed by radical Islamic terrorists are Muslims. It is moderate Muslims who are on the front lines, dying everyday fighting groups like ISIL, al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other like-minded groups. Those groups represent a tiny minority of Muslims. It is true that many Muslims do not agree with Western values on things like women’s rights, gay rights or many other issues. However, many American Christians hold views on things like school prayer, gay rights and other issues that I and many others disagree with wholeheartedly. Orthodox Jews have many views that I do not agree with. America was built on the idea of religious tolerance and freedom of thought and expression.

It is true that some Muslims in the world would like to kill Americans. Shutting America’s doors completely to everyone, as this is only way to keep foreign terrorists from coming here (though we are perfectly capable of growing our own terrorists — Muslim, Christian and every other kind) is illogical and impossible. People should think about this before voting for someone who has made this a central policy on which to base a Presidential campaign.