Backlash and Global Turmoil: Trump’s Muslim Ban
It was difficult not to be affected by images of people welcomed by protesters with cheers at airports across the US. The protesters were there to voice their concerns against Trump’s executive order signed last Friday (27 January) forbidding temporary access to the United States to refugees, visitors and 500,000 legal immigrants from seven Muslim countries. But Friday’s order, which was blocked partly by courts, was quickly followed by protests in American cities and airports. In the meantime, White House officials were calling what appears to be “a constitutional crisis”, a “massive success story.”
The basic fact that Trump cannot ignore is that he didn’t get the popular vote, which means, despite his denials, that most people don’t want anything to do with his xenophobia or Islamophobia. The majority of US citizens didn’t vote for “a banana republic or fascist dictatorship.” (Huffington Post) The New York Times called Trump’s Muslim ban “bigoted”, “cowardly and dangerous.”
The executive order: “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States”
The ban suspended entry of refugees for 120 days, banned Syrian refugees until further notice, and blocked entry for 90 days for citizens of seven Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The order, which also includes immigrants who were cleared to live in America under visas, was issued on Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Trump’s politics inaugurates the speedy disintegration of a nation into the irrational and highlights his cold indifference to history. But his actions display the rationale of a businessman, where politics turns into economic deals, and any value is sacrificed for the sake of profit. As the New York Times pointed out, Trump’s order exempted “the countries of origin of all the hijackers who carried out that plot [the attacks of Sept.11] and also, perhaps not coincidentally, several countries where the Trump family does business.” Others commented on the ways the order had put together the country’s enemies, like Iran, with allies, like Iraq.
But the order’s language was stained with prejudices against the Muslim threat and stated that, “The United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles.” Trump’s ban is damaging US politics and endangering US security since his attack on Islam could be potentially interpreted by extremist groups as an invitation to respond and defend Islam against an aggressive America.
What his order managed to create was upheaval and chaos, blocking access to people attending funerals, studies or vacations abroad. Students attending American universities and returning to the US after visits abroad were also blocked. Students studying at Yale, MIT and Stanford university were sadly refused permission to enter the country, board on a plane or detained for hours from entering the country. 109 people who were in transit when the order was signed were also denied access. 173 were deterred from boarding planes and 81 were given waivers to enter the country. As a response to the Muslim ban, academics are signing a petition to boycott international conferences in the US in order to express solidarity with the people affected by the ban and to question the intellectual integrity of academic spaces from which their Muslim colleagues are excluded.
A White House official told reporters that those who have green cards and are residing legally in the US should meet with their consular officer before leaving the country.
The Federal Courts’ Orders
Judges in New York, Massachusetts, Seattle, and Virginia issued orders to block the White House executive order.
Federal Brooklyn judge Ann M. Donnelly ruled that following Trump’s order would cause “irreparable harm” and that the government was “enjoined and restrained from, in any manner and by any means, removing individuals” who had arrived in the US with visas or as refugees. At her courtroom, lawyers testified that in one case a person detained at an airport was deported back to Syria on the spot.
Leonie M. Brinkema of Federal District Court in Virginia, issued a restraining order for a week to block the removal of green card holders who were detained at Dulles International Airport.
A senior White House official referring to the Brooklyn judge’s order said to NBC News that “Saturday’s ruling does not undercut the president’s executive order. All stopped visas will remain stopped. All halted admissions will remain halted. All restricted travel will remain prohibited.”
The Department of Homeland Security said it would enforce the president’s executive orders and that “Prohibited travel will remain prohibited.”
The Grand Old Party (G.O.P)—a nickname for the Republican Party—lawmakers were increasingly worried by Trump’s policy, with two Republican Senators, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, openly criticising Trump’s ban. In a statement, they said: “Ultimately, we fear this executive order will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism”, and that it would “help terrorist recruitment than improve our security.” In response to their statement, Trump tweeted: “Senators should focus their energies on ISIS, illegal immigration and border security instead of always looking to start World War III.” On Sunday, Trump in an afternoon statement, said that "America has always been the land of the free and home of the brave," and that "We will keep it free and keep it safe, as the media knows, but refuses to say."
But things took a more troubling turn, adding to the already chaotic atmosphere, when Trump’s Friday ban was followed by his Saturday decision to promote his chief strategist, controversial right-wing and ex-Breitbart publisher, Stephen Bannon, by offering him a seat on the National Security Council. Former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, tweeted that the move was “stone cold crazy. After a week of crazy.” But many, who can’t believe the immigration ban, are already pointing to Bannon as the main culprit of the order. Bannon is the man behind the curtain who appears to be extremely influential within Trump’s circle. Accused of racism and being a white nationalist sympathiser, Bannon is a dangerous instigator and his position at the National Security council is a bad omen.
But Trump’s order will be debated this week at the US Congress. Democrats promised to introduce legislation to undo his actions and limit his executive authority. As Republicans are slowly losing their mind over Trump’s transgressive policies, the possibility of Trump being the shortest-serving president of the US doesn’t seem that far-fetched anymore.