The growth of Islam in America has been astonishing. Just 100,000 Muslims lived here in 1960, and between 6-to-8 million live here today. The religion has rapidly become a part of the rich texture of American fabric.
So the idea of rounding up all Muslims for interrogation is nuts. And Arab-Americans, who number close to 4 million, come in all nationalities, from Lebanese to Egyptians. Those who have taken the oath of loyalty to this country are entitled to the same protections as the rest of Americans. Those born here are presumed loyal unless proven otherwise.
But when it comes to Middle Eastern men who are here with visas and work or study permits, that's another story.
Back when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, there was no evidence that Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast had anything to do with the attack. Yet they were unjustly rounded up and put into holding camps.
Today, sadly, the world has changed. The war against terrorism begins on our soil, with terrorists who have slipped behind "enemy lines" to live among us, walk our streets, fly our friendly skies and blow us to smithereens.
In this new war, we can no longer ignore men visiting from the Mideast. We must, unfortunately, scrutinize each and every one of them (there are probably thousands here legally and illegally) - and determine if they have connections to extremist groups and/or if they are engaged in suspicious activities.
This isn't hysterical talk meant to incite hostilities against our Arab-descent neighbors. We're just realistic. The FBI says more attacks are planned; we cannot know if they have been foiled or how many more are being hatched in terrorist cells here.
Hence, immigration rules must be tightened. For now, no male immigrants of Middle Eastern origin should be allowed in the country for any reason, unless they get security clearance from the State Department. Those here must pass a security test.
It is a drastic measure, but a prudent one. It is also one we recommend only after much thought and with profound sadness, as we cherish our country's open-door history that has enriched and strengthened us.
But Sept. 11 made this a different country and different rules must apply. War has been declared on us - not just sabre-rattling bravado, but a city-destroying holy war whose goal is to exterminate Americans. Immigrants, especially if they're suspected terrorists, should not be extended the same constitutional rights U.S. citizens enjoy.
We can't be patsies in the face of terror. If we are to preserve our liberties, we must take the extreme step to tighten our immigration laws.