In a guest post at Kiwiblog, the website of National Party pollster David Farrar, former Act Party MP David Garrett has called for the government to immediately and permanently ban all Muslims from immigrating to New Zealand.
Garrett's post has caused a lot of comment. Some of his critics have pointed out the symbolic harm that would be done to New Zealand democracy if the state were to begin to discriminate against potential citizens on the basis of their religion. But Garrett's proposals would lead to actual as well as symbolic damage to democracy and civil liberties.
Let’s imagine that Garrett gets his way, and that a law banning Muslim migrants from this country is passed. If such a law is to function effectively, then systems will have to be set up not only to exclude from New Zealand self-declared Muslims, but to make sure that Muslims don't slip into this country by disguising their faith.
Let’s say that John Smith from Britain decides to immigrate to New Zealand, is accepted, because he has skills and money and a job waiting for him, and ticks the No box when confronted with an official form that said ‘Are you a Muslim?’ But Smith actually converted to Islam a few years ago in Britain. He didn't admit to his faith because he wants to live in New Zealand, and because he believes that his ideas about God and the universe are none of the business of immigration officials. After he arrives in Auckland Smith begins to attend a local mosque. He also listens to Sufi music at home, enrols in an online course in Arabic, and buys his meat from a halal butcher.
If the ban on Muslim migrants is to have any force, then people like Smith will have to be identified, detained, and deported. In order to identify people like Smith, the police or some other arm of the state will have to monitor the Muslim community. CCTV cameras will presumably have to be set up outside mosques and halal butchers. Citizens living near new migrants would presumably be encouraged to listen carefully for the sounds of Sufi chanting, or the Muslim call to prayer. Even Muslims who are legitimately living in New Zealand will routinely have their privacy and other civil liberties curtailed. And all of this effort will be devoted to monitoring the thoughts in people’s heads.
[Posted by Scott Hamilton]