Trump edict deepens Muslim alienation

Approval of the edict by 48% of Trump votersmay prompt him to include other Muslim countries.

Donald Trump’s surprise edict banning citizens of seven Muslim countries from entering the US (now suspended temporarily by an American court) had put thousands of lives on hold and deepened anti-US feeling across the Muslim worlds. The Trump administration has said it would appeal against the order.

Under the Trump edict, refugees from Syria are barred entry indefinitely while nationals from Iran, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Sudan and Somalia holding valid visas are excluded for 90 days. Although the justification is keeping “America safe” from “terrorists,” there have been no fatal attacks in the US committed by citizens of these countries.

The worst such attack, in September 2001, was carried out by 15 Saudis, two citizens of the United Arab Emirates, and one each from Egypt and Lebanon and the mastermind was Pakistani. Most US terrorist operations have been mounted by US-born or naturalised citizens.

The decree also cuts the number of refugees to be admitted to 11,000 from 50,000. Priority will be given to religious minorities, particularly Syrian Christians, angering Muslims. Domestic critics argue this is a violation of the US constitution which bans discrimination on the basis of religion. The total, indefinite ban on Syrian refugees is particularly egregious because last year, the Obama administration admitted 10,000, raising the total since 2011 to 12,000.

It had been hoped that Washington would increase the number as Syrians constitute the world's largest refugee population. The presence of millions of Syrians in Lebanon and Jordan is seriously straining the resources of these countries. It is not known how many Syrian refugees the Trump  administration will admit. More than 1,50,000 Syrians currently live in the US and many whose entry visas have been suspended are related to residents.

Some 48% of those affected are from Iran, the largest and most populous country of the seven. More than 35,200 Iranian temporary visitors and 3,000 refugees are barred. Some 13,000 green card holders should be granted entry. Iran has reciprocated by suspending visas for US passport holders.

Shia Iran is seen by the Trump administration as its main antagonist in West Asia and is accused of destabilising the region although the US and its Sunni allies, particularly Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are largely responsible for the rise of radical jihadis who are the main sources of conflict in West Asia and North and Sub-Saharan Africa.

At least 21,381 temporary Iraqi travellers have been barred and the fate of 21,676 Iraqi refugees is uncertain while there are 21,107 Iraqi green card holders who should be allowed in. The damage wreaked by the banning order compounded Iraqi outrage over Trump’s lamentation, on the day after his inauguration, that the US had not taken Iraq’s oil during the 2003-11 occupation, and his observation, “may be we’ll have another chance.”

Iraqi PM Haidar al-Abadi, a US ally, replied, “Iraq’s oil is only for Iraqis.” He has condemned the ban while the Popular Mobilisation organisation comprised of pro-Iranian  Shia militias has called for the expulsion of US citizens from the country.   The lives could be at risk of the 5,000 US troops who are currently deployed in the offensive mounted by the Iraqi army and militias against Islamic State in the northern city of Mosul. More than 16,000 Syrian travellers have been denied entry temporarily while 1,680 Syrian refugees have been indefinitely excluded. There are nearly 4,000 Syrian green card holders who may gain entry.

Intensive interrogation

Some 5,549 Yemeni visitors and 16 refugees have been barred; 3,194 Yemenis have green cards. Nearly 3,000 Libyan visitors are excluded; 734 Libyans hold green cards while 359 visitors from Somalia have been barred; 734 have green cards; and 4,792 visitors and 1,578 refugees are barred, while 8,858 Somalis hold green cards. Green card holders can be subjected to intensive interrogation at points of entry.

Trump has promised “extreme vetting” once suspension is lifted. This could mean the granting of visas to loyalists and the exclusion of dissidents, whose governments could be asked by the US to provide documentation on individuals. Most of the people affected by the ban are those travelling to the US for studies, business, family visits, and holidays. Refugees who have sold homes, quit jobs, and invested in travel have been deported to their home countries or forced to wait in third countries, eking out of their slender resources.

Trump claims “this is not a Muslim is not about religion (but) keeping our country safe” but jihadi outlets celebrate the edict as a recruiting tool for IS and al-Qaeda at the very time he seeks to ramp up the fight against jihadis in Syria and Iraq. Ironically, his decree coincided with the circulation of a memorandum to senior administration officials and the military calling for the drafting of a plan to defeat Islamic State.

The approval of the controversial edict by 48% of Trump voters  could prompt Trump to include citizens of other Muslim countries or use “extreme vetting” to severely reduce the number of visas granted to Muslims, deepening Muslim alienation and antagonism. Trump is not destined to win Muslim hearts and minds.

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