Seventy-two hours ago I returned from the Middle East and passed through passport control in Detroit, Michigan. I don’t know how many times I’ve been to the Middle East but it is far too many times to feel the need to count. In other words, I could tell you off the top of my head how many times I’ve been to Great Britain, France, Mexico, and Canada, but I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been to Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and Palestine—too many times. But returning from the Middle East this time was different. Let me explain.
At Detroit, passengers deplaned and entered one of two lines: one for citizens of the United States and the other for non-citizens. I casually entered the citizen line. Furthermore, my traveling companions and I chose different lines in order to race—to see who could get through passport control first. For me, returning to American soil is such a non-contested prospect that I can transform the process into whimsy—a game like I play with my kids in different lines at the grocery store. Just get through first and claim the bragging rights for choosing the fastest line.
But for the first time I visualized a third line, a line for Muslim Americans where they would receive very different treatment. Likely a series of questions that go well beyond “Did you pack you own bag?” No, scrutiny about family members, places of worship, intentions behind religious convictions and the so-called security risks behind those convictions. A religious test to enter the most religiously diverse nation in the world. I was struck by the irony of the possibility—and it is now a possibility. Sickening to me.
Creating such a test would constitute an institutionalized Occupation of American Muslims by the government of the most powerful nation on earth. This just simply cannot be so. Well, it can be so if Americans elect a president that pledges to make it so. Were this to happen, Americans will get what they deserve—an E Pluribus Unum with a big and bold asterisk behind it. In such a case, which religious tradition might be next? The very thought of religious tests ought to cause Mormons to shudder because they might be next. After all, that has happened before. Sobering indeed!