The internment of Japanese, German and Italian nationals during World war Two used as an example to justify the Moslem registry as proposed during the presidential campaign is not a proper example to justify such a method in the 21st century. These internments occurred in a formal state of war which does not exist at the present time. In any case, such a move by the incoming president would not only raise many questions, but also risk serious consequences for the United States.

Questions raised

It would be legitimate to ask if the new administration intends declaring a formal state of war with Islam to justify the registry a possible Muslim registry of its faithful in the country.

The consequences of any such move would be more widespread than some imagine and the questions it raises are many. Is it possible to declare war on a religion, or limit it only to one sect or group within the faith? Does such a move then mean that the U.S. would also be at war with those countries such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan where Islam is the State religion? Would other groups also be subject to such treatment?

Naturally such a decision would inevitably become subject to legal challenges to the Supreme Court on the grounds of freedom of religion enshrined in the Constitution and also whether these measures would mean guilt by association and, if the measure is accepted, whether such association would then be applied to other groups, even in the field of criminal law.

Yet, while these discussions may seem academic to some and the fear of terrorism is such that people may believe the registry justified, the long term costs to the reputation of the U.S.

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are potentially highly damaging and truly long term.

Keeping faith with the past

The United States was founded by the descendants of the Pilgrim Fathers who fled Europe to escape religious persecution and for this reason it has repeatedly and steadily defended the rights of religious minorities around the world. Any decision to regiser, or even intern Moslems on the facile basis of “defending the country” would inevitably have the effect of not only reneging its own past, but also of denying any moral right for the United States to intervene with other countries to defend individual rights poor and persecuted Christians and freedom.

It also has another possible disastrous consequence. Anyone who follows world politics in any way knows that Islam is divided and that the origins of the strife around the world are as much between the major groups within the faith, the Sunnis and the Shiites, as against the real and/or perceived injustices of the Western world against Moslems. Any move to persecute the Moslems in the U.S.

for their faith would have the real potential of uniting the two groups against the common foe, thus rendering the international struggle against terrorism much more widespread and difficult. Furthermore, this would also heavily strain relations between the United States and many of their allies in this international struggle.

The problems faced by the world against radical Islamic groups cannot be fought by one country alone, or by destroying the very rights and freedoms that make up the modern Western democracies. It can only be fought and won by working together with the other countries threatened by the fanatics and these must necessarily include the Moslem nations that have also suffered at the hands of the terrorists.

Reality not rhetoric

The new administration must understand that there is many a slip ‘twixt rhetoric and reality and that any actions must be in line with the principles outlined in the United States Constitution which also led to its taking the dominating role in defeating the dictatorships in the past. This cannot be done by committing acts of discrimination on its own citizens.

We can only hope that the word 'registry' will be confined to the history books and not become part of newspaper articles of the near future that would shame the Western world.