In an article I published earlier on today, I reported that a protest was held in Aberystwyth against #MuslimBan, a trending topic regarding an executive order passed by President Donald Trump, which legislates to prevent access to the citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations – Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, and Iraq.
Over the last 48 hours, I have followed this debate on social media and in the news, and have discussed this with several people. It strikes me that there is a fair amount of misinformation and confusion about the actual policy itself, which I was reluctant to explain in the previous news article. In the interest of providing a public service, then, allow me to dissect exactly what #MuslimBan actually is, why the policy is problematic, and whether I believe it to be as catastrophic as has been suggested by the wave of protests it has sparked.
Is it actually a ban on Muslims?
No. Whilst the policy will disproportionately affect Muslims, it only ‘discriminates’ on the basis of nationality, not religion. That the nations in question are Muslim-majority nation countries is irrelevant; of the top ten Muslim-majority countries in the world, only one, Iran, features on the list. Muslims who reside in other parts of the world, including the UK, will be unaffected.
The confusion on this particular question relates back to comments Donald Trump made in 2015, when he called for a temporary “shutdown” of Muslim immigration into America following the San Bernardino terrorist attacks. The confusion – deliberate or otherwise – appears to be a conflation of these two, separate issues, though concerns are understandable.
So, what actually is it?
It’s a temporary postponement of entry to the United States for nationals and dual-nationals of the aforementioned seven countries. According to the executive order itself, Trump will “suspend entry into the United States… of such persons [nationals of those countries] for 90 days from the date of this order”, citing their entry as “detrimental to the interests of the United States”.
It is not, as has been widely reported, a complete ban, however. The executive order makes two specific provisions. Firstly, there are specific exemptions for those “traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas”. Secondly, the EO gives power to the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security to, “on a case-by-case basis, and when in the national interest, issue visas or other immigration benefits to nationals of countries for which visas and benefits are otherwise blocked.” How this will work in practice remains to be seen.
Why those particular countries?
The most direct answer is “Obama”, and I’m tempted to just leave it there. *kek
Trump’s executive order does not identify the seven countries by name, instead referring to “section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f)”. In the interest of saving you time, the section Trump is referring to is the ‘Inadmissible Aliens’ section of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952. It reads thus: “Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.”
What has this got to do with Obama? Well, in 2016, Obama invoked the exact same legal passage as Trump to pass restrictions on those seven nations, by listing them as “countries of concern” in the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015. Trump’s order, then, simply escalates the provisions already put in place by the Obama administration, although one can make the case that Trump’s amendments, like everything he seems to do, are excessive and brash.
As for why Obama listed these nations as “countries of concern”, one doesn’t need to look too far. Of the seven, six of them are effectively failed states that have irrefutable links with the so-called Islamic State. The seventh nation, Iran, is a sworn enemy of the United States whose leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has repeatedly endorsed attacks against Israel, a key strategic ally of the US. They’re also a key sponsor of terrorist groups in the region.
LOL, WUT?! What about Saudi Arabia? They are [insert criticism here][exclamation mark x 3]
You are, of course, absolutely right. Trump, like many of our so-called leaders, past and present, is unlikely to act against the interests of a key ally in the Middle East, despite the country’s glaring human rights abuses. If you plan to protest the cordial relations we have with this nation, amongst others, I would be right there with you. It is, however, a separate issue.
The question here is whether it is reasonable for Trump to target the seven countries specifically. On individual merit, I would argue yes, for the reasons given in the previous section. In wider contexts, however, the move, like the policy that precedes it, is wildly hypocritical. But, again, that is a separate issue.
So you think that what Trump has done is right?
No. There are many objectionable qualities to this executive order. The policy was poorly introduced to begin with – there should never have been any question over green-card holders, for example. There are major questions over its legality, and its potential conflict with international human rights laws. On a personal level, I would object to this policy on the grounds that prohibition rarely works – evidenced by the increase in average number of parties I attend per week during exam periods.
That said, I understand why Trump has done this, and accept the logic that he feels he needs “to temporarily reduce investigative burdens on relevant agencies” in order for them to devise and implement a more robust system of visa processing. To put this into metaphor, sometimes you have to pause the video if you don’t want it to buffer. Likewise, even if I disagree with doing so, it does make some logical sense to suspend visa processing until the administration feels it can do it properly.
More importantly, is it legal?
I don’t know. But I know two guys who do. Unfortunately, they’ve both taken opposing positions. Such is life with Trump in the White House. You can decide for yourself by reading the cases FOR and AGAINST in the links.
Is it true that Trump’s policy excludes countries in which he has business interests?
Not in any underhand sense, no. It was Obama who drew up the list from which Trump is working, meaning that, unless Trump and Obama colluded with each other two years ago in preparation for this, it’s doubtful that Trump is motivated by personal profit.
Should Trump be given an invite for a state visit, and should he get to meet the Queen?
Yes, and yes, although I say the second of those with a particularly bitter taste in my mouth. On the first, Trump may be a distasteful character, and his policies may be riddled with objectionable qualities, but America are still our closest, strongest ally. Unless we are prepared to cut standard diplomatic protocol with every national leader we have profound ideological disagreements with – China, Russia, Saudi Arabia… Scotland… – it seems reasonable to extend the hand of friendship to Trump, as we do with others.
It should be made clear to him, however, that the UK stands in opposition to any curtailment of liberties that may occur under his presidency. I have given Trump and Mike Pence a lot more leniency than perhaps is advisable, but I would draw the line at policies that promote discrimination against minorities, and our PM must make that position abundantly clear. Although, I would just say, on a separate note, that I don’t think that the LGBT+ community will be affected by Trump’s presidency, nor do I believe Pence is as homophobic as has been reported. You heard it here first, and I await the implementation of compulsory electroshock therapy to prove me wrong and embarrass me.
As for the Queen, I feel that it would be a great strain upon her dignity to meet a man clearly so far beneath her in character and class. As an ardent supporter of the monarchy, I feel the Queen has better things to be doing than massaging President Trump’s ego. That said, she is a key diplomatic tool for the UK, and an intrinsic part of our standard diplomatic protocol. As a gesture, perhaps, we might defer a meeting, but I feel as though one is both right and inevitable.
If I’ve missed anything, or you’d like to me answer more or clarify a point further, make sure to post in the comments below, and I’ll do my best to respond.