taking the words of Jesus seriously


Did you know that following 9/11, legal arrangements were made to register Muslims living in the United States? 90, 000 Muslims were registered during that initial effort. Those Muslims are still registered with the government, even though further attempts to register Muslims were halted.


As The Atlantic reported this week:

The system was implemented, symbolically, on September 11, 2002, under the Department of Justice, but it was soon transferred to the brand-new Department of Homeland Security. It consisted of two “special registration” programs: one that required foreign nationals from certain countries to check in with the government before entering and leaving the country, and another that obliged some foreigners living in the United States to report regularly to immigration officials.

When it was announced, the program applied to non-citizen, non-resident visitors from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, and Syria. Eventually, the list of countries grew to 25—all of them Muslim-majority countries, except for North Korea. The domestic registration program applied only to men over the age of 16, but the entry and exit program applied to both men and women.

The domestic-registration portion only lasted a year and three months, and the remaining entry-and-exit part of the program was suspended in 2011, when DHS de-listed every country whose nationals were required to register. But de-listing the countries was equivalent to taking the ammunition out of a gun without getting rid of the weapon itself: The basic regulatory structure for the program still exists today, making it simple to re-list the countries and reinstate the program. Civil-rights organizations have been calling on the Obama administration to dismantle the program for years—but the push has gained urgency since Donald Trump started calling for bans, databases, and “extreme vetting” programs for Muslims.


The legal means to restart the registration of Muslims is still in place, and we Christians must be watchful lest this kind of oppression of the followers of Islam again roars its ugly head.


At a recent “Faith Round Table” meeting called by Jim Wallis, social activist and the publisher of Sojourners, a magazine which Red Letter Christians look to for leadership on socio-political matters, some of us made the proposal that if a government renewal of Muslim registration is initiated by the Trump administration that all Christians embrace what we call “The Danish Option.” Let me explain what that means.


During WWII, when Hitler required that all Jews be registered and then be publicly identified by wearing arm bands displaying the star of David, Danish Christians all over Copenhagen began wearing those same armbands, thus identifying with their Jewish neighbors.


The Danish Option, which Red Letter Christians would promote, is a call to all Christians to register as Muslims, should the registration of Muslims be required. This would not only give us an opportunity to identify with an oppressed people, even as Christ calls us to do, but if we did so in sufficient numbers, it could frustrate the government agency that would be commissioned to carry out the registration. We would designate ourselves as Muslims with a small “m”, rather than with a capital “M” indicating that we were identifying with an oppressed people rather than with the religious beliefs of Islam. Let me know what you think!


About The Author


Tony Campolo is Professor of Sociology at Eastern University, and was formerly on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania. For 40 years, he founded and led the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, an organization that created and supported programs serving needy communities in the Third World as well as in “at risk” neighborhoods across North America. More recently, Dr. Campolo has provided leadership for the Red Letter Christians movement. He blogs regularly at his own website. Tony and his wife Peggy live near Philadelphia, and have two children and four grandchildren.

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