Responding to recent debate over the security threat posed by Muslim immigration to the U.S., and especially by the acceptance of refugees from the Syrian civil war, Reuel Marc Gerecht cautions against exaggerating the dangers. Since September 11, 2001, anyone entering the country from the Muslim Middle East has been subject to intense scrutiny by several government agencies—despite “the president’s politically correct vocabulary.” And comparisons to the current situation in Europe are unhelpful:
What success Islamic terrorists have had using refugee cover in Europe has come through the unfiltered, rapid Middle Eastern exodus that the German chancellor encouraged. Refugee admission to the United States is usually a long and unpleasant process. Its vagaries—not knowing whether one will be admitted and the relentless boredom in inhospitable processing camps—would be tricky for a terrorist outfit trying to target young holy warriors. This is why, so far, there is no known case of such a refugee sleeper cell. It’s been long-term residents and citizens, not refugees, who have gone rogue. . . .
The upside of Americanization has held its own against Islamic militancy, the rare toxic combination of factors that turn non-jihadist radicals into killers. There are good reasons to believe that Americanization will eventually extinguish the potential for domestic jihadism. . . .
There are certainly disturbing elements in the Muslim-American experience. Many American mosques have Saudi funds flowing into them, and that is never good. But the milieux created by these mosques usually don’t radiate the hostility toward infidels that one finds frequently around their West European counterparts. . . . The United States could absorb hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of Muslim immigrants and refugees without challenging the country’s ability to homogenize even the most refractory, sharia-loving newcomers.
Would doing so increase the chance of Islamic terrorism? Yes. More Muslims in the United States mean more possible targets for recruiters, more chances for a radicalized Muslim to go rogue. But America, unlike many European countries that made their choice decades ago by allowing large-scale Muslim immigration, can still choose to turn off the spigot. . . . [T]his more stringent approach perpetuates an illusion, however: that the West isn’t intimately involved in the Muslim world’s problems, that it can insulate itself behind reinforced borders.
Islam and the West are in a globe-altering civilizational struggle, which the Muslim world has been losing for over 200 years. Islamic terrorism has become so savage in part because hundreds of millions of Muslims, faithful Muslims, have adopted so many Western values and habits. . . . The millions of Muslims who have and will seek sanctuary in the West are overwhelmingly on our side of the divide—between those who loathe and fear the West’s unstoppable individualism and those who are willing to admit, however reluctantly, that infidels have created a better world in which to raise children. These Muslims may not be our friends, but they are not our enemies. They may well be key to a victory over jihadism. We should have the confidence in our civilization that they do.