Trump’s Statue of Liberty turns her back
The US ban on nationals of seven mainly Muslim countries reeks of both religious prejudice and ‘the art of the deal’
On December 2, 2015, 14 people were killed and 22 others seriously injured in a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California – a mass shooting and attempted bombing at a large
gathering. That incident, along with September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on American soil, serve as points of reference for US President Donald Trump, who uses them to stoke fear about Muslims.
Trump suggested during his presidential campaign that friends of the perpetrators behind the San Bernardino killings had knowledge about what was about to happen and that some even saw the weapons in their home. There was no evidence whatsoever that anyone had advance knowledge or saw any weapons. But Trump nevertheless incorporated the lies into his campaign and called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States.
Less than two weeks into his presidency Trump is honouring his campaign promise. It has been repeatedly pointed out that no one from any of the seven countries on his blocked list – Libya, Somalia, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen and Sudan – has ever carried out a terrorist attack on American soil. Furthermore, citizens of countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates – whose nationals were involved in the 9/11 attacks – face no such restriction on entering the US. It is also duly noted that Trump, a real-estate tycoon and former television personality, has investments in these latter countries, suggesting a cynical rationale behind his decision not to include their nationals on the no-entry list.
Any Thai who has applied for a visa to visit the United States is aware of the extensive background security checks required. Westerners visiting countries like Iraq in recent years have faced similar hurdles in a process that can take weeks if not months. Such restrictions have been generally accepted as necessary precautions in a dangerous world. But now Trump has doubled down on the paranoia and xenophobia that characterised his campaign, to such an extent that protests have rightly erupted across the US and world leaders have offered their condemnation.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called Trump’s action regrettable. Her spokesman said she “is convinced that the necessary, decisive battle against terrorism does not justify a general suspicion against people of a certain origin or a certain religion”. And, in a phone call to Washington, Merkel reminded Trump of America’s obligation under the Geneva Convention “to take in war refugees on humanitarian grounds”. French President Francois Hollande cautioned, “Withdrawal into oneself is a dead-end response.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau extended his country’s welcome “to those fleeing persecution, terror and war, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength.” Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Sharif, said Trump’s move was “a great gift to extremists and their supporters … Collective discrimination aids terrorist recruitment by deepening fault lines exploited by extremist demagogues to swell their ranks.”
Despite the protests at major airports around the US, Trump claimed the implementation of his order was working out “very nicely”. He refuses to recognise or acknowledge that this decision, based on bigotry rather than genuine threat, will not make American citizens any safer. In fact, it does just the opposite, both by placing Americans overseas in danger as possible targets for extremists and by hardening Muslim sentiments and driving more of them into extremist militias.
The United States last year took in 85,000 people displaced by conflict, including 12,000 Syrians. President Barack Obama made arrangements for another 110,000 refugees to be accepted this year. Trump has promised to cut that number by at least half, but with the action already taken he is playing into the hands of terrorists who insist that America is waging war on Islam.