How Quickly We Give In

Those of us living in the liberal social media bubbles have been posting and reading this week about one another’s pledges to register as Muslims. It’s a noble and courageous thing to offer: to put oneself in harm’s way in the face of an unprecedented authoritarian administration. It’s also a bit of an empty promise.

For one thing, a Muslim registry — should such a thing come to pass — will probably not take the form of an office people line up at, a form they fill out, or a checkbox they tick online. Rather, it will take the form of a registry of Muslim immigrants. It will be administered through the immigration system, and it will be a requirement to gain entry to or remain in the US. This means that in order to follow through on our pledges, we will all have to immigrate to the United States; a difficult task for a bunch of US Citizens.

The other and more troubling aspect of this promise is that it takes the existence of a Muslim registry as a fait accompli, ignoring all the agency we have to stop it from taking place. Even in a Trump administration, we will remain a nation of laws. The people’s voice impacts what laws are passed.

My pledge, therefore, is not to sign up as a pretend Muslim. I pledge to be someone who listens to real Muslims, especially leaders in the US Muslim community, when they call me to action. Of course, if these leaders (and others) call on me to register as a Muslim at some point in the future, I will do it. But between now and then, I will take other steps. I will speak out and urge others to speak out to prevent any religious test for immigrants. I will contribute time to this effort, I will take risks, and I will make personal sacrifices.

I’m not trying to say that it’s wrong to pledge to register as a Muslim. At some point, this might become a meaningful action for people to take, but it is not enough. If we wait for the point where such a registration is a reality to act, it will be too late. If a Muslim registry comes to pass in this country, it must be despite our vigorous and courageous opposition.