Home How America's Polygamy Ban Blocked Muslim Immigration
Home How America's Polygamy Ban Blocked Muslim Immigration

How America's Polygamy Ban Blocked Muslim Immigration

A hundred years ago, Muslims were furious over an immigration bill whose origins lay with advocacy by a headstrong and loudmouthed Republican in the White House.

The anti-immigration bill offended the Ottoman Empire, the rotting Caliphate of Islam soon to be defeated at the hands of America and the West, by banning the entry of “all polygamists, or persons who admit their belief in the practice of polygamy.”

This, as was pointed out at the time, would prohibit the entry of the “entire Mohammedan world” into the United States.

And indeed it would.

The battle had begun earlier when President Theodore Roosevelt had declared in his State of the Union address back in 1906 that Congress needed to have the power to “deal radically and efficiently with polygamy.” The Immigration Act of 1907, signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt, had banned “polygamists, or persons who admit their belief in the practice of polygamy.”

It was the last part that was most significant because it made clear what had only been implied.

The Immigration Act of 1891 had merely banned polygamists. The newest law banned anyone who believed in the practice of polygamy. That group included every faithful believing Muslim.

The Ottoman Empire’s representatives argued that their immigrants believed in the practice of polygamy, but wouldn’t actually take more than one wife. This argument echoes the current contention that Muslim immigrants may believe in a Jihad against non-Muslims without actually engaging in terrorism. That type of argument proved far less convincing to Americans than it does today.

These amazing facts, uncovered by @rushetteny reveal part of the long controversial history of battles over Islamic migration into America.

Muslim immigration was still slight at the time and bans on polygamy had not been created to deliberately target them, but the Muslim practice of an act repulsive to most Americans even back then pitted their cries of discrimination and victimhood against the values of the nation. The Immigration Act of 1907 had been meant to select only those immigrants who would make good Americans.

And Muslims would not.

In his 1905 State of the Union address, President Theodore Roosevelt had spoken of the need “to keep out all immigrants who will not make good American citizens.”

Unlike modern presidents, Roosevelt did not view Islam as a force for good. Instead he had described Muslims as “enemies of civilization”, writing that, “The civilization of Europe, America and Australia exists today at all only because of the victories of civilized man over the enemies of civilization", praising Charles Martel and John Sobieski for throwing back the "Moslem conquerors" whose depredations had caused Christianity to have "practically vanished from the two continents."

While today even mentioning “Radical Islam” occasions hysterical protests from the media, Theodore Roosevelt spoke and wrote casually of “the murderous outbreak of Moslem brutality” and, with a great deal of foresight offered a description of reform movements in Egypt that could have been just as well applied to the Arab Spring, describing the "mass of practically unchained bigoted Moslems to whom the movement meant driving out the foreigner, plundering and slaying the local Christian."

In sharp contrast to Obama’s infamous Cairo speech, Roosevelt’s own speech in Cairo had denounced the murder of a Coptic Christian political leader by a Muslim and warned against such violent bigotry.

Muslims had protested outside his hotel, but Teddy hadn’t cared.

The effective implementation of the latest incarnation of the ban however had to wait a year for Roosevelt’s successor, President Taft. Early in his first term, the Ottoman Empire was already protesting because its Muslims had been banned from the country. One account claimed that 200 Muslims had been denied entry into the United States.

Despite these protests, Muslims continued to face deportations over polygamy charges even under President Woodrow Wilson. And polygamy, though not belief in it, remains a basis for deportation.

Though the law today is seldom enforced.

American concerns about the intersection of Muslim immigration and polygamy had predated Roosevelt, Taft and Wilson. The issue dated back even to the previous century. An 1897 edition of the Los Angeles Herald had wondered if Muslim polygamy existed in Los Angeles. “Certainly There is No Lack of Mohammedans Whose Religion Gives the Institution Its Full Sanction,” the paper had observed.

It noted that, “immigration officials are seriously considering whether believers in polygamy are legally admissible” and cited the cases of a number of Muslims where this very same issue had come up.

A New York Times story from 1897 records that, “the first-polygamists excluded under the existing immigration laws were six Mohammedans arrived on the steamship California.”

To their misfortune, the Mohammedans encountered not President Obama, but President Herman Stump of the immigration board of inquiry. Stump, an eccentric irascible figure, had known Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth and had been a wanted Confederate sympathizer during the Civil War.

In the twilight of his term, Stump had little patience and tolerance for either Islam or polygamy.

The Times story relates the laconic exchange between Stump and the Muslim migrants.

“You believe in the Koran?" asked President Stump.

"Thank Allah, yes," responded the men in chorus.

“The Koran teaches polygamy?" continued the Inspector through an interpreter.

"Blessed be Allah, it does!"

"Then you believe in polygamy?" asked Captain George Ellis.

"We do. We do! Blessed be Allah, we do," chorused the Arabs, salaaming toward the setting sun.

"That settles it," said President Stump. "You won't do."

President Stump’s brand of common sense has become keenly lacking in America today.

None of the laws in question permanently settled the issue. The rise of Islamist infiltration brought with it a cleverer Taquiya. The charade that Muslims could believe one thing and do another was dishonest on the one hand and condescending on the other. It was a willful deception in which Muslims pretended that they were not serious about their religion and Americans believed them because the beliefs at stake appeared so absurd and uncivilized that they thought that no one could truly believe them.

Theodore Roosevelt knew better. But by then he was no longer in office.

Unlike today’s talk of a ban on Muslim migration from terror states, laws were not being made to target Muslims. Yet Muslims were the likeliest group of foreigners to be affected by them. Even a hundred years ago, Islam was proving to be fundamentally in conflict with American values. Then, as now, there were two options. The first was to pretend that there was no conflict. The second was to avert it with a ban.

A century ago and more, the nation had leaders who were not willing to dwell in the twilight of illusions, but who grappled with problems when they saw them. They saw civilization as fragile and vulnerable. They understood that the failure to address a conflict would mean a loss to the “enemies of civilization”.

Debates over polygamy may seem quaint today, but yet the subject was a revealing one. Islamic polygamy was one example of the slavery so ubiquitous in Islam. The enslavement of people is at the heart of Islam. As we have seen with ISIS, Islamic violence is driven by the base need to enslave and oppress. Polygamy, like honor killings and FGM, is an expression of that fundamental impulse within the private social context of the home, but as Theodore Roosevelt and others understood, it would not stay there. If we understand that, then we can understand why these debates were not quaint at all.

American leaders of a century past could not reconcile themselves to Islamic polygamy. Yet our modern leaders have reconciled themselves to the Islamic mass murder of Americans.

Thus it always is. When you close your eyes to one evil, you come to accept them all.


  1. Infidel23/8/16

    That's an interesting angle on the problem, indeed.

  2. I just looked over the 1905 SOTU speech, and I don't see any explicit mention of Moslems. He does say that "the entire Chinese coolie class, that is, the class of Chinese laborers, skilled and unskilled, legitimately come under the head of undesirable immigrants".

    The speech looks very interesting and relevant to today's debates about immigration, but of course modern-day "Progressives" (Teddy's label) have no interest in anything from earlier than last week.

  3. Anonymous23/8/16

    Feminism 1.0 favored sex/gender indifference (put your fairness hat on and swallow it), feminism 2.0 favors ‘sex /gender differentiation’ with a twist though, it is men pretending to be women and women pretending to be men. Is there a contradiction? Not, at all. Please, take your fairness hat off. This was never meant to achieve equality. Think like a Marxist, it is total sexes war, they don´t take prisoners, weak effeminate men is good, women virilization is their jihad. The end result being no-children western societies taken over by faster reproducing muslims. Why would that be a problem? Vanderclintons are happy.

  4. All you have to do to invalidate such a law today is to convince 5 Supreme Court justices (most notably Anthony Kennedy) to invalidate the law through judicial review, with a First Amendment claim of "free exercise" and a sprinkling of Fourteenth Amendment "due process." Both claims are phony charades that make our national charters into a subjective farce, starring today's lawyer oligarchy. If there ever was a Progressive temple in America, it would have to be the Suoreme Court building. That's where the real action happens... first the sham oral arguments, then non-debate and decision in private chambers, then the lofty scripture writing, and the sausage-making all comes to an end when the dictum is handed down on judgment day, the product of the Great Oracles of SCOTUS. Allah be praised! (Read: you can't say "God" anymore, that's a violation of another's conscience)

    That is our modern "living" Constitution -- whatever the majority of Supreme Court justices believe (not think/reason) it is. And we've just learned that this most recent SCOTUS term was torture for one Justice Ginsburg, with all the ties preventing definitive Progressive pronouncements of law. But the long, tortured prose of today's Supreme Court opinions are just rationalizations for their emotional (posing as sophisticated, learned) Leftist conventions.

    It is claimed the Supreme Court is our nation's last defense against the tyranny of the majority, as evinced by the abject bigotry of those against polygamy. We've made such... Progress since Teddy's time. Teddy didn't see the errors his Progressivism would unleash. Woodrow Wilson understood it all too well. We are living Wilson's dystopian political vision today.

    What's a "good American citizen" when we're told by our betters that we are "citizens of the world?" And what is to happen across the pond when the European Union chief says national borders are "the worst invention ever? This is all presumably because national cultures are so troublesome to the "common good," as determined by the erudite Leftist. That's what you get from someone who is from the quasi-nation state of Luxembourg, which specializes in offshore finance and postage stamps. This man has no idea why he speaks French or how his value system was formed. Yeah, the West needs more sharp thinkers like THAT guy.

    Meanwhile, in America, the Leftists hector us about what we can and cannot have in our laws, and if they lose they take it to the Supreme Court, where 5 of the 546 officials under the Separation of Powers can make things all right again. Today's chic Americans have reconciled themselves as "world citizenry," most notably our president, whom we still know as little about personally as we did in 2008. And that's Progress. The country be damned. Countries are bad.

    Oh, and I'm still waiting for one of our nation's intrepid, courageous journalists to ask Khizr Khan whether the thinks Islamic Law (as practiced in the shariah) supersedes the authority of our Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. I suspect his truthful answer is yes (as his prior writing shows). And a bonus would be someone to point out that his meek, headscarf-wearing little woman is a boba fide pediatrician who has to communicate in sophisticated ways all day as a professional. Are you moved by the media's "cultural sensitivity" and phony compassion? This pair is a clever ruse. Enough of Khan's lecturing about reading the Constitution when only the Qu'ran will do. Deception, indeed. But deception requires a willing deceived...

  5. Anonymous23/8/16

    The issue of taquiya goes to the hear of Trump's proposal to vet moslems. Once the first moslem is interviewed, then the questions are known and the "correct" answers disseminated.

  6. Great essay. I was just thinking about Theodore Roosevelt yesterday and his 'speak softly and carry a big stick' quote, wishing we still had leadership like that.

  7. Anonymous23/8/16

    Other forms of extreme vetting:

    1) If you have more than one wife.
    2) If your wife is under 16.
    3) If you live according to Shari'a law and believe it is superior to Constitutional law.
    4) If you or your wife or your girlfriend/fiance wear a hijab.
    5) If you refuse to touch a piece of bacon.
    6) If you own one or more slaves.

  8. That is some really, really interesting history. Thanks for that!

  9. Anonymous23/8/16

    All law, including immigration law, should improve life for our citizens. Our society is based on Anglo-European culture. We do not need to increase our numbers. Certain limited immigration may help us by accepting candidates who have a strong likelihood of positive contribution. We would not invite an offensively smelling, acting, looking vagrant into our home.

    Our standard of living comes from meritocracy, freedom, creativity, enthusiasm. It's not a "blessing" or "luck". Most refugee cultures are primitive cesspools of violent hatred, superstition, pestilence, corruption. They remained primitive until colonization, then when freed, chose to regress.

    So, why make this a hard decision? Our culture is clearly superior; our rejection of the "diverse" is an excellent default stance.


  10. Mark Matis23/8/16

    Our modern leaders have reconciled themselves to their utopia of One World Government, and the Muslim invasion as well as the Central American invasion are merely their preferred means of accomplishing their goal. They understand that a nation without a national culture is NOT a nation. And that importing "immigrants" with "cultures" vastly opposed to ours takes care of that problem for them.

    By the way, it is not just the Democrats looking to destroy the United States as an independent sovereign nation-state, but the Republicans - especially the ROVE Republicans - as well.

  11. Anonymous23/8/16

    Well T.R. was POTUS back before the mohammedans had access to piles of petrodollars to pay off US government officials.
    I not only believe muslim polygamy is being practiced in the USA but that kafir al najjis taxpayers in the USA are funding it -- after all, not every shiftless, uneducated jihadi can afford to support 4 wives and a dozen children on their own riyal, er dime.
    I believe Mr. Greenfield stated in another article that the current US government is a government of traitors.

  12. Anonymous24/8/16

    It was the Mormons that got us riled up against polygamy, and exclusion of Muslims was a lucky side effect. Whether in a marriage, club, neighborhood or nation, let's face the fact that homogeneity of language and culture avoids many problems that occur in more diverse situations.

    A considerate tourist can find and learn scores of tips on how to navigate the do's and dont's of a destination culture. We Americans have our own rules; we like them and they work for us. Disregard by one seeking residence is callous and likely hostile.

    A newcomer should adapt; mostly before arriving. If he doesn't come capable and willing to fit in and contribute, there is no rational reason to accept him.


  13. Anonymous25/8/16

    Can't Stump the Stump!

  14. Just a common 'tater27/8/16

    Thank you, that was enlightening. Despite his many flaws, TR was a true patriot and understood the greatness of the USA. Too bad the political hacks in DC and most state capitols won't see this or read it. Even Trump is getting infected by the PC virus going around. OPEC oil money does buy a lot of influence.

  15. I surmise the motivation to enslave, starting with one's family as the prime motivatior of Islam needs to be further disseminated, expounded, explained and emphasized.

  16. Anonymous28/8/16

    Another question for Muslim want-to-be invaders (er, immagrants, would be "Do you believe in Shari'ah (Law of Ah - the Islamic god)?" All Muslims must believe in making Ah's law superior to all other so-called man-made laws - so, if the Muslim answers "Yes" then deny entry. If he/she says "No", then the Muslim is practicing Muslim approved lying known as Taqiyya - so, he/she is a liar, and not fit to be an America. Deny entry.

    Muslim immigration problem solved!

  17. IMHO, the difference between how the West acted in Japan and Germany after they vanquished the enemy and how America acted in Iraq is that after WWII Americans laid the law and basically told the Germans and Japanese: this is how it's going to be done from now on. Period.
    In Iraq, America allowed the enemy to dictate its own conditions and surrender. Had the US stuck to its guns it could have been another story. Cowardice breeds contempt in that part of the world and so the US lost.

  18. This refreshed a memory from my high school history from back in the 70's (memory of the 70's is always elusive). I had a WWII Veteran that was my history teacher. He pointed out the dangers of islam and it's followers back then.

  19. Great work, SultanKnish, as usual. The next time you write on this subject, you should first spend a few minutes on the history of the Mormons whose practice of polygamy ignited serious violence against them that drove them to the wilderness, to the Utah Territory even before it was given that name. And when the community reached a certain size, they petitioned Congress for admittance to the Union as a state, Congress said no. The Mormons kept petitioning for the next forty years and were turned down every time until in 1890 they outlawed polygamy and joined the Union in 1896. Every mosque in the US is illegal for promoting polygamy which is against the law in all states. The authorities should issue court orders to police, sheriffs and marshals to padlock them and shut them down.

  20. Sha'i ben-Tedoa,

    Polygamy was not what incited violence against the Mormons -- that was just one MINOR issue in the overall scheme. The violence in Ohio was about the bank fraud by Smith, Smith's affair with someone's 16-yr-old daughter, and other issues. Missourians didn't like them because the Mormons told them they were going to take their land and give it to the Indians, and that they were going to bring freed slaves. The Mormons voted as a bloc and stirred up lots of trouble which infuriated the Missourians. Polygamy wasn't even known about much by the outsiders until the Mormons moved to Nauvoo, IL. By then they were not only corrupting the morals of the locals, but they were taking over everything, had their own army, killed people who disagreed with them, etc.

    So, no, polygamy wasn't what "drove them to the wilderness" -- it was their actions which threatened everyone else's lives which led to their expulsion.

  21. Anonymous22/9/16

    Good article. However stop calling him Teddy. He never went by Teddy, his mom and friends did not call him Teddy, his name was Theodore.

  22. AesopFan14/2/17

    Anonymous said...
    The issue of taquiya goes to the hear of Trump's proposal to vet moslems. Once the first moslem is interviewed, then the questions are known and the "correct" answers disseminated.

    It's fortunate that Theodore didn't have to deal with the Ninth Circuit Court.


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