In politics, dual loyalty is loyalty to two separate interests that potentially conflict with each other.
While nearly all examples of alleged "dual loyalty" are considered highly controversial, these examples point to the inherent difficulty in distinguishing between what constitutes a "danger" of dual loyalty – i.e., that there exists a pair of misaligned interests – versus what might be more simply a pair of partially aligned or even, according to the party being accused, a pair of fully aligned interests. For example, immigrants who still have feelings of loyalty to their country of origin will often insist that their two (or more) loyalties do not conflict. As Stanley A. Renshon at The Center for Immigration Studies notes,
Lan Samantha Chang (1999), a novelist writing in response to the Wen Ho Lee case, could say in a New York Times op-ed piece entitled Debunking the Dual Loyalty Myth, "True, many immigrants have strong ties to their countries of birth...But cultural or familial loyalties are on a different level from political allegiances...I love China, but I am a citizen of the United States." Ms. Chang appears to want to distinguish a love for one's "home" country from being willing to commit treason against one's adopted one. This is obviously a fair, reasonable, and appropriate distinction.
Yet, in the process of making such a distinction, she acknowledges the duality of her feelings. The issue is not between love of one's country of origin and treason, but rather the multiple loyalties that appear to be part of many immigrants' psychology.
Some scholars refer to a growing trend of transnationalism and suggest that as societies become more heterogeneous and multi-cultural, the term "dual loyalty" increasingly becomes a meaningless bromide. According to the theory of transnationalism, migration (as well as other factors including improved global communication) produces new forms of identity that transcend traditional notions of physical and cultural space. Nina Glick Schiller, Linda Basch, and Cristina Blanc-Szanton define a process by which immigrants "link together" their country of origin and their country of settlement.
The transnationalist view is that "dual loyalty" is a potentially positive expression of multi-culturalism, and can contribute to the diversity and strength of civil society. While this view is popular in many academic circles, others are skeptical of this idea. As one paper describes it,
On occasion, these imagined communities conform to the root meaning of transnational, extending beyond loyalties that connect to any specific place of origin or ethnic or national group. Yet what immigration scholars describe as transnationalism is usually its opposite... highly particularistic attachments antithetical to those by-products of globalization denoted by the concept of "transnational civil society" and its related manifestations.
Beyond its usage in particular instances, the term "dual loyalty" versus "transnationalism" continues to be the subject of much debate. As one academic writes:
Although the events of September 11th may have shaken some assumptions – at least in the United States – about the nature of transnational networks and their capacity to facilitate flows of people, goods, and ideas across borders, the terms "globalization" and "transnationalism" remain relatively stable, albeit frustratingly imprecise additions to the language of social sciences, including anthropology.
Other historical examples of actual or perceived "dual loyalty" include the following:
- During World War II, a number of United States citizens of Japanese, German, and Italian ancestry, including some born in the U.S., were confined to internment camps. (See: Japanese internment in the United States)
- Roman Catholics are subject to the Pope on religious matters. This has often perceived as dual loyalty by powers opposed to the Holy See.
- During the English Reformation, many important English and Scottish figures, such as Thomas More, Mary, Queen of Scots and Edmund Campion, were tried and executed for their alleged double loyalty to the Papacy and infidelity to the Crown.
- During the Third Republic in 19th-century France, citizens were routinely divided between clericals and anticlericals because of long-lasting loyalty related conflicts between the French secularist government and the Holy See.
- During John F. Kennedy's campaign for and brief tenure as U.S. President, some opponents questioned whether a Roman Catholic President of the United States had a divided loyalty with respect to the Papacy and Vatican City.
- The Chinese Catholics have been forced by the government of the People's Republic of China to substitute the Roman Catholic Church in China by the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.
- Jews in the Jewish Diaspora have been accused of dual loyalty by the Romans in the 1st century, by the French in the Dreyfus Affair in the late 19th century, in Stalin-era Soviet Union in the 20th century. Before the creation of Israel, Jewish anti-Zionists used the accusation against other Jews. While today some use the phrase in a "neutral and non-pejorative fashion," this use can obscure the fact that home nations and Israel may have sharp political differences. The 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq lead to such accusations against Jewish neoconservatives, vocal proponents of war against Iraq who allegedly sought to undermine Arab nations hostile to Israel (i.e., the term "Israel-firster").
- The loyalty of many Americans to the U.S. government was called into question during the Cold War due to alleged Communist sympathies, resulting in "witch-hunts" of various government officials, celebrities and other citizens. (See: McCarthyism)
- Muslims living in Western countries, especially during periods of heightened tensions, such as after September 11, 2001, or during the Danish Cartoon Controversy of 2005–2006, are sometimes accused of being more loyal to the Muslim ummah than to their country.
- "Dual loyalty" continues to be a concern of critics of the U.S.'s immigration policy, particularly in those states which border Mexico.
- The Hindu minority in Muslim-majority Bangladesh has often been accused of dual loyalty to neighboring India by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and even by Sheikh Hasina who heads the largest political outfit in Bangladesh hailing secularism.
- The Ahmadiyya movement in Islam has been accused of dual loyalty, to the British, Israel and sometimes India. In particular, it is sometimes alleged that the movement itself was started by the British to divide the Muslims and that in the modern times the members of the movement are agents of Israel.
- The government of Iran accuses the Bahá'í minority of having loyalty to foreign powers (see Iranian anti-Bahá'í conspiracy theories).
- Stanley A. Renshon. "Dual Citizenship and Conflict: The War of 1812 Redux?" Center for Immigration Studies.
- Waldinger, Roger; Fitzgerald, David (March 2004). "Transnationalism in Question" (PDF). American Journal of Sociology 109 (5): 1178.
- Wagner, Sarah (2002), Putting a Face on Transnationalism: Migration, Identity, and Membership in the Transnational City of Johannesburg (PDF), p. 2, archived from the original (PDF) on April 8, 2005.
- AmericanPresident.org article on John F. Kennedy
- Leonard P. Zakim, Janice Ditchek , Confronting Anti-Semitism: a Practical Guide, KTAV Publishing House, Inc., p. 26, 2000 ISBN 0-88125-629-3, 9780881256291
- Rory Miller, Divided Against Zion: Anti-Zionist Opposition in Britain to a Jewish State in Palestine, 1945–1948, Routledge, pp. 129–135, 2000 ISBN 0-7146-5051-X, 9780714650517
- John J. Mearsheimer, Stephen M. Walt, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, pp. 146–149, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007 ISBN 0-374-17772-4
- Pat Buchanan, "Whose War? A neoconservative clique seeks to ensnare our country in a series of wars that are not in America's interest," American Conservative, March 24, 2003.
- Kathleen and Bill Christison, "Dual Loyalties: The Bush Neocons and Israel," CounterPunch, September 6, 2004.
- Dore Gold, Blaming Israel for the Iraq War, Institute for Contemporary Affairs, Jerusalem Issue Brief, Vol. 3, No. 25 3 June 2004.
-  The Emergency Committee for Israel Cries Wolf, Connie Bruck, The New Yorker, March 5,2012
- Postscript 9/11 Media Coverage of Terrorism and Immigration, Center for Immigration Studies, April 2003.
- Linda Chavez, "Mexican law to challenge loyalties," Abilene Texas News, April 8, 1998.
- Bangladesh slammed for persecution of Hindus, Rediff.com
- A Bleak Future for Bangladesh Hindu's, hinduismtoday.com
- The Hindu Minority in Bangladesh: Legally Identified Enemies, Human Rights Documentation Centre
- Breach of Faith. Human Rights Watch. p. 14. Retrieved May 6, 2014.
- "Ahmadis and the State of Israel". Al Islam. Retrieved May 6, 2014.