100 Years Ago… – America’s intolerance: Our missionary in the detention house


The Review of Religions (English), April 1920

Hazrat Maulvi Sher Alira

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On the 24th of January, 1920, Mufti Muhammad Sadiq, MR, AS, Phil B, ASP, FPC (London) proceeded from England to America to preach the truth of Islam to the people of that continent. But as soon as he reached that coast, he, quite unexpectedly, found the door of the great democracy closed against him.

The immigration authorities would not let him in and what do you suppose was the reason for which he was refused admission? Every reader, I am sure, will be surprised to learn that the only fault for which the door of the United States of America was slammed in his face was that he believed in a religion which permitted polygamy.

He assured the authorities that if a belief in polygamy was something which disqualified one from preaching in the United States, he would undertake not to preach the doctrine while in the United States; but the authorities were still obdurate and asked our missionary to go back to the country from which he had come.

Our missionary asked for permission for appeal. That permission has been given, but the gentleman has been sent, to the detention house, pending the decision of the appeal. Thus our brother is now in the Detention House, New Jersey, Philadelphia, cut off from the outside world. It was about the middle of February, that he was sent to the detention house and up to the time of writing [the 20th April, (19)20] we have received no news of his release.

The treatment which our brother has received at the hands of the United States authorities is highly intolerant and inequitable. The American people boast of being the most enlightened of all nations. They pose as the champions of liberty and freedom. They profess not only to be themselves the most liberal of all nations, but also ready to defend, the rights of the weak and the oppressed even among other nations.

But the pity is that with all such big professions they have acted most intolerantly towards a Muslim missionary who went to their land to preach Islam. One measure for you, another for me, that seems to be the American idea of justice and fair play. Talk of freedom of thought and speech! That is when I go to your land to preach what I think right. But when you come to me to tell me that there is another side of the picture, the laws of the free republic shut the door against you.

American democrats and republicans! You hate the Turks and call them a barbarous people. But the Turks at their worst did never display the intolerance and fanaticism which you display today. The worst forms of Christianity with all the abomination of man-worship and image-worship were never treated by the Turks as you treat the Islamic missionary today.

Children of the Pilgrim Fathers! Remember the fanaticism and persecution of the nations then in power, which first sent your forefathers as fugitives to your shore. You, more than any other people, should have held sacred the freedom of thought and speech. You have increased in wealth, you have increased in power. Beware, these are the rocks, on which have foundered the moral ships of older nations. You have passed a law forbidding people who believe in the validity of polygamy, admission into your country.

Do you think even the highest legislative body in the world has the jurisdiction to pass, such a law against inalienable human rights? Such legislation only serves to brand the nation with the stigma of arrogance and pride. And where these come in, decadence is not far behind. Now that our brother has appealed against his detention and has undertaken not to preach polygamy, he may be permitted to stay in the land and to preach, but if the authorities there still refuse him permission to preach Islam in America, it will be only just and fair that the British authorities should expatriate all the American missionaries working in India.

If the American government cannot grant permission to an Indian missionary to preach in the United States, there is no reason why American missionaries should be allowed to preach in India. As we have already said, the United States authorities may grant permission to our missionary to preach Islam, on the condition that he should abstain from making any reference to polygamy, but such an undertaking on the part of our missionary will be a concession to the intolerance of the American government and will remain as a blot on the fair name of America. [Information has subsequently been received that as a result of the appeal by our missionary, the American government has been pleased to waive all objections and granted him free permission to enter the country. The outlook seems very hopeful and our missionary has already reported the conversion of 17 Americans (to Islam) – Editor of The Review of Religions (1920)]

America must remember that now the time has come for Islam to spread throughout the world. God Himself will break all barriers which the opponents of Islam may set up to check its spread. The flood of Islam is now rising and it will sweep away all obstacles that may come in its way.

It has been decreed that Islam should spread in the United States, and no human effort can prevent its progress. Today the United States authorities are detaining a Muslim missionary because he believes in polygamy, but the day is not distant when the State itself will pass laws recognising polygamy as a legal form of marriage.

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