Trump’s Ban on Muslim Refugees: Counter-Terror Strategy or Politically Motivated Slugfest?

By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, New Age Islam

02 February 2017

Finally, the US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order with new vetting measures to limit the flow of refugees from Muslim-majority countries. It has created a major churn not only in the American Muslim society but in the entire community the world over.

According to the media reports, the executive order prevents all people from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen from entering America for thirty days. However, in the case of Syrian refugees, it is a ban for an indefinite time. Thus, the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. would now be cut roughly in half, from 110,000 to 50,000.

Significantly enough, the executive order’s draft clearly states that Trump’s plan to ban the Muslims of these countries is aimed at ‘keeping radical Islamic terrorists out of America’. Trump makes it crystal clear: “I’m establishing new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America. We don’t want them here”… “We want to ensure that we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas. We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country and love deeply our people,” he averred.

Although President Trump is also reported to have clarified that his crackdown on refugees and nationals from seven Muslim countries would not be a “Muslim ban”, as he spelled it out soon after signing the documents in the Oval Office. (usatoday.com/videos/news/world/2017/01/28/trump-says-refugee-crackdown-‘not-muslim-ban’/97195578/)

More recently, on January 28, the US President Donald Trump has agreed to work with the Russian President Vladimir Putin to fight the Islamic State as well as other global terror outfits, in an attempt to ‘normalize’ the bilateral relations, as this news report tells us.(firstpost.com/world/trump-putin-discuss-normalizing-ties-fighting-terrorism-3225822.html). It’s only a week after Trump was sworn into the White House that the two leaders had a telephonic conversation in which they primarily discussed the coordination of military action against the international terrorism— very particularly the ISIS and other global terrorist groups. Thus, they gave priority to battling what they agreed was their ‘nations’ gravest threat’.

In his recent article on Al Jazeera, an expert on international relations, Professor Khaled A Beydoun opinionates that Trump is seeking to make his predecessor, Obama’s ‘Countering Violent Extremism programme’ into ‘Countering Violent Jihad’. He writes:“Trump is inheriting from President Barack Obama the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) programme that was based on the premise that foreign terror threats are tied to Muslim American citizens at home. Like other policies of the Obama administration, this programme was linked to the idea that radicalisation is an exclusively Muslim phenomenon….But unlike the Obama administration, he [Trump] aims to integrate this conflation of radicalisation and Islam with the belief that the US is interlocked in a war with Islam – and with the eight million American citizens that adhere to it. Exit Obama and Countering Violent Extremism. Enter Trump and war of civilisations.” (http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2017/01/trump-counterterror-programme-muslim-americans-170125103202700.html)

It cannot be denied that the eight million American citizens are at increasing risk for the daunting challenge from terrorist groups operating from outside the US, particularly Syria, Iraq and several West Asian and North African Muslim countries. Some of these groups including ISIS, Al Qaeda, Al Shabab, and Boko Haram have indiscriminately targeted the American citizens in several nefarious terror attacks. Given this, the uncompromising counter-terror stances such as the above will considerably help rescue the US citizens who are wantonly attacked by the radical Islamist terrorists.

However, the latest executive order calling for an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees and a temporary ban on immigrants from other Muslim countries is seen as a grotesque move by the new US President.  It is creating a horrific situation for the innocent Muslim immigrants and travellers and is feeding into the growing Islamophobia in public and worsening media depiction of America’s Muslim community which is now facing a baffling challenge. Just hours after the American President banned the citizens of seven Muslims countries from entering the US, scores of tourists and travellers from these countries are reporting horror stories of being turned away from America. Mohammed Al Rawi, an ex-journalist with the Los Angeles Times, wrote on his Facebook wall:

“My 71 year old dad is in Qatar boarding LAX flight to come visit us and he’s being sent back to Iraq”…. “Some US official told him that Trump cancelled all visas,” he added.

To many, Trump’s sweeping crackdown on the Muslim immigration does not augur well for the civilisational positioning of the country known as the ‘melting pot’ of different cultures and religions. It goes completely against the core American values of accommodating those persecuted in other parts of the world.

Tellingly, Trump’s aggressive effort to deport the Syrian immigrants and cut back on legal immigration is portrayed as a ‘cosmetic’, ‘cowardly’ and ‘self-defeating’ policy by several American media outlets. An editorial in The New York Times notes: “Reflect on the cruelty of President Trump’s decision on Friday to indefinitely suspend the resettlement of Syrian refugees and temporarily ban people from seven predominantly Muslim nations from entering the United States. It took just hours to begin witnessing the injury and suffering this ban inflicts on families that had every reason to believe they had outrun carnage and despotism in their homelands to arrive in a singularly hopeful nation”.(.nytimes.com/2017/01/28/opinion/donald-trumps-muslim-ban-is-cowardly-and-dangerous.html)

Similar responses are coming even from those among the US community journalists who concern themselves with freeing America from Islamist extremism while at the same time promoting the voices of moderate Muslims.  A grassroots activist in America, Meira Svirsky, who is also the content Coordinator of Stop RadicalIslam.org and editor of the editor of Clarion Project.org, critiques the US ban on Muslim immigration. She writes: “Notably absent from the countries listed in the temporary ban for an extra 30-day waiting period are Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Pakistan, which shows, given the history of radicalized elements in those countries, that the ban is more of a political statement than anything else”.

Given the above critique, the question naturally arises: is the immigration order of the US President Trump a genuine counter-terror strategy or merely a politically motivated slugfest? As Meira Svirsky has rightly hinted, Tahrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) and other Pakistani terror networks have been playing out in the terror plots against the United States. Therefore, Obama’s administration often sought to press Pakistani government to take effective action against all the terror outfits that sabotage the American interests. Only recently, the US has expanded its terrorism designation against Lashkar-e-Tayyiba to include two additional LeT leaders and LeT’s student wing, as the former US ambassador to India, Richard R. Verma spoke at Vivekananda International Foundation Conference. (hin.usembassy.gov/remarks-ambassador-richard-r-verma-vivekananda-international-foundation-conference-countering-violent-extremism/)

But one wonders why the current US president Trump is soft on Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in his call for a ban on the Muslim countries’ immigrants. Inevitably, Saudi Arabia shows great optimism about Donald Trump becoming the US president. Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir has announced that the Saudi kingdom is eagerly looking forward to work with the new American administration, as the one of the prominent Arabic newspapers of Saudi Arabia, Al Watan (which is also pro-government) has reported.(http://alwatannews.net/article/151009/Gulf)

No wonder then, the Saudi media outlets like the Arabic daily Ukaz and Al Hayat (funded by Saudi government) have heaped high praises on the newly established American administration. Highlighting how America continues to uphold the democratic values, constitution and laws, the Mecca-based leading Saudi newspaper, Ukaz writes: “Here we witness and understand the practical realization of the concept of orderly transition of power…… As this important historic event takes place, life across the U.S. continues normally. There is no state of emergency, no disruption of business or public services and the country does not become a military camp…..“This is how transition of power takes place in countries that respect their constitution and laws, apply democracy and implement it in a dignified manner.”(memri.org/reports/saudi-columnists-trump-inauguration-when-will-we-adopt-practice-smooth-democratic-transfer)

 

First posted on New age islam

 

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