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Peter Skerry

Bumps along the path to citizenship

In this week’s edition of the Weekly Standard, Boston College professor and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution Peter Skerry (who joined us last January at AEI to discuss “The Muslim-American Muddle”) takes a look at current proposals for immigration reform and a “path to citizenship” for illegal immigrants. His advice? “Republicans must keep their immigration proposals tough, fair, and simple.”


Memorial Day with Muslims

Peter Skerry, a co-convener of the Program’s Dialogue on Islam in America, has an article today in the Worcester, Massachusetts, newspaper The Telegram in which he describes his experience attending this year’s annual convention of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA).


Event re-cap: Muslim-American Muddle

In his National Affairs article “The Muslim-American Muddle,” Peter Skerry argued that since 9/11, “America has reached a political and intellectual stalemate regarding the Muslims in its midst,” and that both elites and the general public misunderstand, for better or worse, the challenges Islam poses to America.


Event reminder: The Muslim-American Muddle

In The Weekly Standard, Program director Gary Schmitt questions whether the prosecution of Tarek Mehanna, a pharmacy college graduate, on various terrorism-related charges squares with our commitment to free speech:

On the face of it, the government’s case against the Massachusetts Muslim for lying to government investigators and conspiring to kill American soldiers abroad was sufficiently strong to ensure a conviction. The more problematic element of the case, however—and what makes it of interest from the point of view of constitutional law—was whether his advocacy activities constituted punishable “material support” to a terrorist organization (weapons, money, training, or expert assistance, for example) or whether they were speech protected by the First Amendment.

How can America respond to the threat of domestic Islamist terrorism while protecting civil liberties? 


Gingrich and immigration: Peter Skerry weighs in

In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, Program collaborator Peter Skerry (whose piece in National Affairs we covered here) has an op-ed on the debate raging in the Republican party on illegal immigration. Newt Gingrich has offered a plan in which some 11 million illegal immigrants who are currently in the United States would be granted legal status, but not a path to full citizenship. Skerry makes the case that more is in play than simple residency, and that focusing on this distinction may help to strengthen the idea of citizenship:

At a time when cosmopolitan elites are devaluing citizenship, conservatives in particular should appreciate the critical distinction between citizenship and mere legal residency, a status that would not afford the beneficiaries voting rights. If Mr. Gingrich’s critics have any doubt about this, they should listen to those few on the left who have already criticized the former House Speaker for advocating a form of ‘second-class citizenship.’

Skerry goes on to endorse Gingrich’s middle-of-the-road approach, advocating that his proposal “could actually address this genuine dilemma while acknowledging the legitimate anxieties that many Americans have about illegal immigration.”

[At our Teaching America, Juan Rangel discussed the immigrant experience of assimilation.]


Peter Skerry and “The Muslim-American Muddle”

Drawing on his work with our “Dialogue on Islam in America,” Peter Skerry has written a thoughtful article on Muslim-American identity in the new edition of National Affairs. Paying special attention to the “enormous diversity” of the Muslim-American population (currently estimated to be about 2.75 million, or less than 1% of the U.S. population), Skerry traces the history of the main Islamic organizations in America and paints a broad picture of their immediate futures. Focusing largely on the competing claims of loyalty that many Muslims face–and the confusion that begets–Perry notes:

The fundamental problem is not disloyalty among Muslim Americans, but their reluctance to confront the implications of the Islamism that has been part of their milieu and that their leaders continue to invoke, however ritualistically or unreflectively. Thus, the primary goal should be to exert constructive pressure, in different ways and to different degrees, on Muslim Americans — leaders and ordinary citizens alike — to “deal with their baggage.” An exemplary step in this direction is the FBI’s policy shift away from contact and cooperation with CAIR. So was the Bush Justice Department’s prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation. Today, however, the Obama administration is pursuing a more accommodating policy toward Muslim-American organizations. This is regrettable, but in truth there is only so much the government can or should do on this front. The most appropriate and effective source of pressure will be non-governmental actors, especially universities, think tanks, and the media.

If any such substantive engagement with Muslims is to be undertaken, then non-Muslim Americans will need to be much better informed. We must overcome the populist paranoia, fueled by the evasiveness of our elites, that demeans a free people. And rather than obsess over the presumed influence of overseas ties on Muslims in America, we need to be cognizant of how American Muslims have adapted to some of the most dysfunctional aspects of our own politics.

The whole article is well worth reading and thinking about.