America's Polygamy Ban Blocked Muslim Immigration


Sultan Knish: 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.


It was a routine question at Ellis Island along with anarchists who were also banned. Of course, anyone can lie but if found to be lying at a later date you don’t need to jump through endless legal hoops to expel them.


I’m not a religious person anymore. But I respect people that are & that respect goes to those of any religion. In this context my main problem with ANY religion is if it urges it’s followers to do harm to others. Sadly though, individuals can sure obtain that directive from every religion that I know of & have throughout history. As for the more than one wife thing, honestly I could care less.


I would, too, but for the FACT that most Muslim wives didn’t become wives of their own volition and far too many of them are “married” to their husbands at a very young age…some as young as 8 or 9 years old.


**I would, too, but for the FACT that most Muslim wives didn’t become wives of their own volition and far too many of them are “married” to their husbands at a very young age…some as young as 8 or 9 years old. **
A couple of thoughts about that. The first would be if they are married in their country I don’t feel that it’s our business. As for the age, they also marry very young but don’t necessarily have sex. And of course on that topic back in the early days of the U.S. girls marrying at 12 wasn’t all that uncommon. Basically they married to have a better life & I’m sure that also has something to do with muslim early marriages. Now I’m not defending here, just stating my thoughts on something that isn’t really my business.


Nope, because Islamic girls that young don’t have a choice. Many of them were probably sold by their parents.


Nope, because Islamic girls that young don’t have a choice. Many of them were probably sold by their parents.
.Your probably right. But the same thing could probably be said for U.S. 12 year old girls marrying rich old men. I doubt that they were in love. While they “may” not have been exactly sold, my guess is that it was a lot closer to being sold than it was true love. In the parents defense I’m betting that they looked at it as a much better life being a rich man’s wife than someone who might starve in any given year plus it increased their chances of not starving by having 1 less mouth to feed. Again something like that “might” apply to some of the muslim countries (I don’t know). From some of the pictures that I’ve seen it doesn’t look like a lot of the population lives much better than they did 100’s of years ago.
Oh & of course my people (the Indians) tended to buy their wives with horses so there’s a long history of it all around the world. Ahh the good old days. (wink)


Something I would add. A lot of times customs in other countries offend us when we compare them to our customs. Or I guess that I should say that standards differ so much from country to country that comparisons don’t always compare well. Example that comes to mind: Remember the great liberal outrage because people in china were only paid a couple of dollars a day? Well what was never pointed out was that the normal wage in china was less than 30 dollars per month (at that time) so that couple of dollars a day wage was much higher than a normal wage. It all came down to cost of living. That same reason is part of the problem here with people reacting how they do to what people earn. Each coast has an outrageous cost of living but in the middle of the country it’s a lot cheaper. Like I’ve said before, before the oil boom (which is dying down now) 2 minimum wage workers could buy a house where I’m at. So comparing here & there even in the U.S. is apples & oranges. Social rules are even more so.


Somewhere in the back of my mind I’m thinking that in India it’s not uncommon for children to be married at 8 or 9 years old. They don’t actually live together until much later though.


There is a difference between the custom of “Arranged Marriages” and “Marrying an 8 year old girl”, the Judeo/Christian customs embraced the former but never the latter.

No moral society EVER allowed 8 year olds to marry, most moral societies did at one time embrace the custom of arranging marriages for their children.

Just because two families may very well have arranged for the marriage of their children to one another at a very young age does not mean that these marriages were consummated at a young age, most of the time the children did not even meet until a certain age was reached and even then the meeting was chaperoned by both families.

The decision to arrange a marriage was based on the parents judgment of the other PARENTS, it was rightly assumed that their child would end up embracing the character and priorities of their parents for the most part so a wise choice would serve to provide their child with a fruitful marriage.

"Raise up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it" was the scripture that inspired such beliefs and there is more than a little wisdom in those words.

Youthful lust was thought to be a horrible curse upon the potential good judgment of the young who had been raised to “know better”, so their parents simply removed that from the equation by arranging marriages based on the character of the people who would raise the eventual spouse.

In later years as this custom fell out of favor the custom that replaced it was "Getting the Fathers permission" to ask a girl to be your bride, a rejection from the Father was respected by the young man seeking his daughter and the daughter as well for the most part because the Father of the girl was thought to be an excellent source of wisdom; even if his judgment was disappointing to the young ones who wanted to be married. Often times the rejected young man would go to great lengths to "prove his worthiness" to the girls Father to overcome his objections, acts of charity and accomplishment coupled with a respect for the Fathers opinion would go a long way in proving that the young mans character was desirable even if the upbringing he experienced was lacking; he could prove that he had redeemed his character in spite of having little to mold it in his rearing.

This custom eventually gave way to asking but not really caring what the answer was, which gave way to families who do not even have Fathers in the home much less a Father whose wisdom is respected so who cares?

For all of the Hollywood condemnation of these old customs the results scream the superiority of major parental involvement in the decision making process of marriage, while political and economic motivations did trump what is best for the child in some cases the reasons for the customs were and are sound. The absolute losers that young girls hitch their wagons to in our age and the multitudes of children who are raised without a Father in the home as a result should be evidence enough to the inferiority of the "just go wherever your heart leads" system of mate choosing.

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?"***


Why aren’t you a religious person anymore?