Trump’s Muslim ban unfair and ineffective

Donald Trump’s Executive Order, called “Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States” signed on Friday, January 27, 2017, halts America’s refugee programme, and severely restricts its immigration and travel order.

Its principles and provision are an affront to justice and equality whilst doing little to curb terrorism.

In the order, Trump temporarily suspends the entire US refugee programme for 120 days, and indefinitely for Syrian refugees, who constitute the majority of refugees in the world today; and restricts migration and any travel to the US for nationals of seven countries, including those who already have valid visas or permanent residence in the United States, under the pretext of national security.

It is important to remember that refugees are people fleeing war or persecution in their home country.

The international community pledged in the aftermath of World War 2 to offer protection to refugees which formed the basis of the 1951 UN Convention of the Rights of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. These international treaties, places a legal and moral duty on nation states to admit and protect refugees.

This is what distinguishes a dictatorial, oppressive regime from a democratic and just one.

Trump’s order effectively blurs the line between the United States as a torchbearer for rights or a tool for discriminatory oppression.

According to the UNHCR, there are 23 million refugees in the world today, of these less than 1% will be resettled in a third country.

The United States refugee programme is already the most onerous and difficult to gain acceptance into, with refugees going though a complex system to obtain the necessary security, medical, and other screening required, a process which can take several years.

In 2016 only 84 995 refugees were resettled in America, of which 19% came from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and 15% each from Syria and Burma according to figures the US State Department’s Refugee processing Centre.

Trump’s order means that the approximately 110 000 refugees who would have gained admittance into the United States in 2017, under Obama’s directive, face an uncertain future as they are forced to live in countries in which they fear persecution.

Trump’s order is wrong for two reasons: first under the thinly guised veil of national security, Trump’s order fails to distinguish between states who are a threat to national security and citizens of such states.

By equating citizens en masse with the ideology, politics and security status of their state, Trump has effectively imposed a mass collective punishment on ordinary people who are suffering persecution from their own government. In simple terms the order is holding victims accountable for the actions of their perpetrators.

Moreover by limiting the ban to countries which have a Muslim majority and in which Trump has neither a political or business ally (read Saudi Arabia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Turkey here) Trump has effectively applied a ban that is not just flawed in its premise but also fundamentally discriminatory.

Research by the US State Department shows that in 2015 there were 11 774 terrorism attacks carried out in 92 countries worldwide resulting in 28 328 deaths.

Of these 74% of all deaths due to terrorist attacks took place in five countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria, and Pakistan).

In contrast there were 512 terrorist attacks in the United States between 1995-2014 killing 3 264 people.

Yes, terrorism is a problem, a global problem, not an American one and Trump’s executive order along with his “America first” ideology will do little to combat it.

Second, Trump states that the aim of the executive order is to “protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States”.

The order goes on to claim “deteriorating conditions in certain countries due to war, strife, disaster, and civil unrest increase the likelihood that terrorists will use any means possible to enter the United States”.

Yet there is no evidence to suggest that foreign nationals from these seven countries, or refugees as a whole, are more likely than anyone else , including American citizens, or migrants form any other country be terrorists.

The executive order thus fails to address the fundamental objective that it sets out and instead is aimed at hurting the lives, livelihoods and dignity of millions of people, most of whom looked to settlement in United States for a chance to seek freedom and equality.

Trump’s order effectively shuts the door not just on migrants and refugees but on the very principles of justice, and liberty whilst not making any significant contribution to making America – or the world – safer.

[This opinion piece was initially published on IOL.co.za: Trump’s Muslim ban unfair and ineffective. The photograph is taken by Fibonacci Blue on January 31, 2017, and sourced from Flickr under the Creative Commons Attribution License. The caption reads “Around 7000 protesters gathered in downtown Minneapolis to denounce Republican President Trump and express solidarity with immigrants”.]

About Zaheera Jinnah

Zaheera Jinnah has a PhD in anthropology and a background in development studies and social work. Her research interests are in labour migration, gender and diaspora studies. She is a researcher at the ACMS where she teaches, supervises graduate students, and engages in policy and academic research. Her doctoral thesis concentrated on aspects of gender norms, agency and livelihoods among Somali women in Johannesburg.

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