Upon assuming office, it was expected that Donald Trump would immediately enact controversial policy decisions such as the scrapping of Obamacare and the expansion of oil pipelines. After all, these were things he had talked about throughout his candidacy. What was not foreseeable however, was his decision to introduce one of the most blatantly discriminatory, anti-American presidential executive orders in recent times so soon after taking office.
President Trump’s recent decision to temporarily ban people from seven Muslim-majority countries, along with all refugees, has been claimed to be religion-neutral. The government and Trump supporters have argued it is not a Muslim ban, because it blocks people of all religions — as long as they’re a refugee or from one of the seven countries.
Yet Trump himself has alluded to a major loophole in this supposed blanket ban, exemption for religious minorities being persecuted by their own governments. In a recent interview, he claimed that it was easier for Muslims refugees to enter the US over Christian refugees, something he thought was unfair.
The order states that, “In order to protect Americans, the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles.” Quite how the conclusion has been reached that every single person from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Somalia, Sudan, and Libya fall under the sweeping generalization of bearing hostile attitudes towards the US isn’t clear. The underpinning theory behind this ban however is the belief that Muslims, and especially foreign-born Muslims are a special type of threat to the United States. Since 9/11, this theory has repeatedly been shown to be dubious. Recent research, for example has found the chance of an American being killed in a terrorist attack caused by a refugee belonging to any religion is 1 in 3.64 billion per year.
The political instability in the Middle East is lamentable, however, in a time when millions are in desperate need of assistance, the decision for America to pursue an isolationist immigration and foreign policy is extremely unhelpful in calming tensions this region. Furthermore, the suggestion that one religious group is worth helping over another flies in the face of the goal of humanitarian assistance operations around the world. The struggles of minority groups in the past serve as timely reminders of the damage stereotyping and discrimination can inflict upon communities and families. It is shameful that Muslims who are green card holders and have family living in the United States have been denied entry into their own country in recent days since the announcement of this order. In passing this, Trump has demonstrated the clearest sign yet that the rhetoric of division and scapegoating, which were fundamental components of his election campaign continue to influence the decisions he makes and consequently the direction he appears to be taking his country. Like with his continued desire to build a wall along the Mexican boarder, rather than trying to present a more moderate, measured approach to governing in office, his administration appears intent on fusing discriminatory policies with those in the name of national security, presuming the public won’t be able to tell the difference.
However, in this assumption, Trump’s team have made a catastrophic error of judgment. The responses towards this decision indicate that the public aren’t buying the government’s rhetoric. No matter how government officials are dressing up the necessity for this ban, it reeks of bigotry and Islamophobia, things that are being denounced around the world as unconstitutional and illegal.
Heads of foreign governments have rightly criticised Trump’s government for their actions. In the short span of time he has been President so far, his administration has triggered several global protests in response to it’s policy decisions. The ban enforced under this order has proven to be the latest provocation of public outcry. The demonstrations occurring across America – and in other countries are encouraging signs that people are not going to stand by and watch as the President introduces measures, which are totally at odds with previous policy stances and even basic American values. As Trump sows the seeds of division across the country, the public opposition towards him will grow larger and larger. Ultimately, this ban will not advance the goal of defeating Islamic State, rather it unfairly targets the Muslim community, propagating false stigmas. In addition it furthers Trump’s simplistic tactic of blaming immigrants for problems in the country. Ironically, this ban carries the risk of being used by IS as a tool to attempt to recruit further members into its ranks and continue its fight against the West.
It is alarming that US policymaking has altered so drastically in such a short space of time. What is more alarming is that a man such as Trump, who has previously been renowned for his obsession with his personal brand and what others think of him seems totally oblivious to the negative responses he has evoked in just his first few days in his new role. The lessons of history provide far too many tales about what happens if bigotry and division are allowed to prosper in countries around the world. Scapegoating and targeting individual religious of ethnic groups has never been acceptable in a democracy and it shouldn’t be allowed the room to fester now. If the last few days have been any indication for what is to come in the rest of Trump presidency, it falls to every protestor, elected representative and member of the media to take a stand and send him a message he won’t be able to ignore. In the meantime, we should show solidarity with Muslims affected by this reckless decision and fight to ensure their rights are upheld just as any other citizen’s should be.