Trump, in a television interview, said that the world was “angry” and “in a mess” and cited both the ISIS-inspired attacks in San Bernardino in December 2015 and the al-Qaeda 9/11 attacks in September 2001 as justification for his ban on anyone from seven Muslim countries from entering the United States. This seems strange considering that of the two attackers in San Bernardino one was born in the United States and the second was born in Pakistan, which is not one of the countries affected by Trump’s ban. As for the 9/11 attackers, all of them came from mostly Saudi Arabia but also from Egypt and Lebanon. None of these countries are affected by Trump’s ban. Saudi Arabia is in my opinion one the worst countries in the world for fostering terrorism and extreme Islamic beliefs, but successive Western governments – most notably the United States and the United Kingdom – are unwilling to distance themselves or sever links with the country or often even criticise or condemn them. Countries often cite Saudi Arabia’s support in anti-terrorism intelligence as a reason for maintaining links, when in reality the West’s dependence on Saudi oil and the lucrative military and trade deals it has with the country ensures that Saudi Arabia can continue its barbaric, medieval Islamic practices and laws that subjugate women and terrorises minorities, not least gay people. If Donald Trump wants to prove that he doesn’t represent the establishment and strike a blow against Islamic extremism he should sever all contacts with the Saudi government – but, of course, that is not going to happen.
Amazingly, when talking of his Muslim travel ban, President Trump said that “all is going well with very few problems,” and blames the chaos at American airports on Delta airlines and “liberal tears”! He seems to dismiss the massive protests around the world and, in particular, at American airports following on the from the detention of Muslim passengers from around the world trying to enter the United States. This included people who had valid visas and even US Green Cards. The protests managed to shut down taxis and other public transports at some airports, including JFK in New York, and lawyers worked hard to ensure that those detained were released. Trump’s reference to “liberal tears” is a reference to the Senate minority leader, Senator Chuck Schumer, who has vowed to support the protests after tweeting on Friday night: “tears are running down the Statue of Liberty” in response to the travel ban. The reference to Delta is referring to a computer outage the airline had on Saturday night that led to delays and cancellations.
Trump’s dismissive attitude continued in a series of tweets, which when combined read:
“Only 109 people out of 325,000 were detained and held for questioning. Big problems at airports were caused by Delta computer outage, protesters and the tears of Senator Schumer. Secretary Kelly said that all is going well with very few problems. MAKE AMERICA SAFE AGAIN!”
He bemoaned that the media weren’t reporting everything: “There is nothing nice about searching for terrorists before they can enter our country,” another tweet read. He also pointed out, accurately, that the travel ban shouldn’t come as a surprise: “This was a big part of my campaign. Study the world!”
If he studied the world, he would see that his travel ban continues to be condemned around the world. The United Nations has expressed opposition to it, while the organisation Doctors Without Borders says it will put lives in order. In the UK over a million people have signed a petition on the House of Commons website calling for Trump’s upcoming State Visit to be cancelled. The petition, which will be discussed by MPs on Tuesday, says he should be allowed into the UK as the Head of State of the United States, but that the Queen should be spared the embarrassment of having to lead a State Visit. It is extremely unlikely the State Visit will be cancelled in light of the current Government’s attempts to maintain its Special Relationship with the United States, even an United States led by Donald Trump.
Boris Johnson, the British Foreign Secretary, described the Trump travel ban as “divisive and wrong”, but then in a statement to the House of Commons announced that he had struck a deal with the US authorities that ensures British passport holders, regardless of where they were born, would be except from the travel ban. Since his statement he has also be defending Donald Trump against “demonising attacks.” He emphasised that the ban is only for 90 days – despite no evidence that Trump will actually relax the ban after three months. Johnson’s deal legitimises the ban and is evidence that the current government of Theresa May is doing everything it can to stay in favour with Donald Trump. This may be sensible from a political and economic point of view, but it leaves a sour taste in the mouth and makes the UK seem like the poodle of the United States that it so often presents itself as with its over-enthusiastic pursuit of the so-called Special Relationship. Boris Johnson, in his speech, said:
“I’m able to provide the following clarification. The general principle is that all British passport holders remain welcome to travel to the US.
“We have received assurances from the US embassy that this executive order will make no difference to any British passport holder irrespective of their country of birth or whether they hold another passport.
“In any case, the executive order is a temporary measure intended to last for 90 days until the US system has added new security precautions.”
Despite Johnson’s assurances, the US Embassy in London appeared to refute his claims saying, in an “urgent notice”, that no visas would be issued to anyone from the UK who are dual-nationals of a country on the list of countries included in Donald Trump’s travel ban. The Embassy said it would not even see anyone regarding a visa if they were a dual-national, and cited Trump’s executive order:
“Per U.S. Presidential Executive Order signed on January 27, 2017, visa issuance to aliens from the countries of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen has been suspended effective immediately until further notification.
“If you are a national, or dual national, of one of these countries, please do not schedule a visa appointment or pay any visa fees at this time.
“If you already have an appointment scheduled, please DO NOT ATTEND your appointment as we will not be able to proceed with your visa interview.”
The British government are continuing to insist that Boris Johnson’s claims are accurate, and that they were approved by the White House. Since the Embassy statement, the Government says it has consulted the White House and “sought clarity from the White House and was informed that the FCO [Foreign & Commonwealth Office] statement was correct”.
The reality is that Muslim-born British people – from the seven countries listed and elsewhere – are as concerned as Muslims around the world who wish to enter the United States. The Somalia-born British long-distance runner, Sir Mo Farah, has described President Trump’s Muslim ban as “ignorant and prejudiced” and that “the Queen made me a knight, Donald Trump made me an alien.” The athlete, who won the 5000m and 10000m races in both the London and Rio Summer Olympic Games, doesn’t hold a passport from Somalia and is not a dual-national but still fears that he won’t be able to return home to the United States where he lives in Portland, Oregon with his family. He is currently in Ethiopia at a training camp preparing for his next athletic competition, back in Britain. Somalia is one of the seven countries featured in Trump’s executive order banning people from those countries entering the United States. In a statement on his situation, he said:
“I am a British citizen who has lived in America for the past six years – working hard, contributing to society, paying my taxes and bringing up our four children in the place they now call home. Now, me and many others like me are being told that we may not be welcome. It’s deeply troubling that I will have to tell my children that Daddy might not be able to come home – to explain why the president has introduced a policy that comes from a place of ignorance and prejudice.
“I was welcomed into Britain from Somalia at eight years old and given the chance to succeed and realise my dreams. I have been proud to represent my country, win medals for the British people and receive the greatest honour of a knighthood. My story is an example of what can happen when you follow policies of compassion and understanding, not hate and isolation.”
This highlights the sweeping generalisation of the travel ban to include everyone and how it completely disregards whether people have been living in the country for years, as Mo Farah says paying their taxes and contributing to American society. Trump, through his travel ban, is labelling every Muslim born in his seven targeted nations as terrorists or potential terrorists. This travel ban doesn’t seem that far from his original plan to ban all Muslims from entering the US until the authorities can figure out how to fix the problem of Islamic extremists entering the country. Despite backtracking in the election campaign in 2016 when it was suggested this would include Muslim-American soldiers serving abroad trying to re-enter the US and businessmen and others who were abroad but live and work in the United States. I am deeply sceptical that the ban will be ended in three months as promised. In fact, it seems much more likely that Trump will pronounce it a great success and perhaps even extend it indefinitely. The largest problem I have with the travel ban is that it simply won’t prevent terrorist attacks. Most, if not all, Islamic-inspired terrorist attacks in the US have been committed by people who were born in the US or come from countries currently not part of the travel ban. The American public have been engrained with a fear of Islamic terrorism that is not borne out by the reality. Since 9/11 there has been a single terrorist attack committed by a Muslim who has come to the United States specifically to target the United States, and her intentions when entering the US aren’t clear. She was the wife in the husband and wife terrorist team who carried out the attack in San Bernardino. She was born in Pakistan. She appeared to be radicalised in Saudi Arabia and may have been intent on an attack when she came to the United States with her new husband, who was American born. She certainly seems to have radicalised her husband after meeting him on his trips to Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, even if you prevent terrorist attacks in the US, you cannot stop terrorist attacks against Americans and American interests abroad, which would only increase as a result of hostility towards the travel ban, especially if it was made indefinite.
If you are to accept that you cannot realistically stop an entire religious group from entering the United States – not least because it is unconstitutional and will be a breach of international law – you have the problem of being able to know the intentions of people entering. Despite extensive background checks and vetting by the FBI and others, the Pakistan-born, Saudi-radicalised San Bernardino attacker was allowed into the US. Her American-Muslim husband’s arsenal of weapons used in the attacks were all bought legally in the United States and didn’t seem to raise any concerns. President Trump speaks of “extreme vetting,” which on the face of it might reduce the risk of terrorists getting into the country. But any democracy cannot have complete and infallible security at its borders and extreme vetting won’t necessarily highlight any concerns. If you impose very strict and extreme measures at airports the United States airport system would probably grind to a halt with delays and would have massive economic costs and implications. The alternative is to exclude all Muslims. Shutting out all Muslims would be economically disastrous to the United States, it would alienate important trading and political partners, and would likely simply inspire and radicalise more Muslims already in the country. Many American-Muslims have already been radicalised by the actions of previous Administrations, but still the problem is nothing compared to the perception portrayed by the Trump administration and is nowhere near the problem it is in the UK, France, Belgium and elsewhere in Europe and around the world. Having relatively open borders and an open, welcoming society is the best protection against radicalisation. If your Muslim population is happy with its lot in the United States, then it is less likely to become radicalised. It is when you carry out anti-Muslim actions – such as attacking Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, that people start to question their position in American society and their government’s perception of them. If the United States closes its borders to Muslims, existing Muslims in the US are, at best, going to protest and vote against you and, at worst, will increasingly become radicalised. Putting them on a Muslim registry isn’t going to stop them becoming radicalised and it isn’t going to pre-warn anyone that they are becoming radicalised.
MASS PROTESTS ACROSS THE UNITED KINGDOM AGAINST TRUMP’S TRAVEL BAN
For photos of today’s protests around the UK, click HERE to view an album on my Flickr site
Anger at President Trump’s travel ban, effectively a ban on Muslims entering the United States if they were born in, or are from, seven named countries, has provoked thousands to protest on the streets of Britain this evening. The main protest was in London, near Downing Street (above), and was also an expression of anger at the Prime Minister Theresa May for her choosing to meet Donald Trump and for inviting him to Britain for a State Visit. Other protests took place in over 30 towns and cities across the UK, including Glasgow (below left), Cambridge (below right), Oxford, Manchester, Newcastle, Cardiff, Liverpool, Sheffield and Leeds. The main protest was organised by Owen Jones, an author and columnist here in the UK. Among the speakers in London were Shami Chakrabarti, the Shadow Attorney General and Diane Abbott, the Shadow Home Secretary. The singer Lily Allen will also speak to the crowd. Owen Jones posted a message on his Facebook page, in which he said:
“Donald Trump has imposed a ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.
“That includes people who helped the US army. That includes people on holiday trying to get home via the United States. That includes people trying to be reunited with their dying parents.
“Let’s stand in solidarity with those targeted by Donald Trump’s hateful government, including the people of this country, outside Downing Street and all over Britain.”
Meanwhile, the British parliament this eveningis holding an emergency debate to discuss a petition that has been signed by 1.4 million people calling for the planned State Visit to the UK by President Trump to be cancelled. For more on the UK protests, read:
- Trump travel ban: Thousands join protests across UK (BBC, London)
- Thousands march across Britain in protest at Trump travel ban as MPs hold emergency debate (Independent, London)
PLACARDS AT LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND PROTEST DEMONSTRATE SCOUSE HUMOUR
photos: Liverpool Echo
Even President Obama, who only left office eleven days ago, has already kept his promise to speak out if he felt the need. He has said he “fundamentally disagrees” with the Muslim ban and the discrimination that targets people based on their religion. He also said he was “heartened” by the global protests today against the ban. His spokesman, Kevin Lewis, elaborated:
“President Obama is heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities around the country,
“In his final official speech as president, he spoke about the important role of citizens and how all Americans have a responsibility to be the guardians of our democracy – not just during an election but every day.”
- Billionaire Republican donor Charles Koch likens Donald Trump’s Muslim ban to Adolf Hitler’s policies in Nazi Germany (Independent, London)
- Boris Johnson defends Donald Trump against ‘demonising attacks’ (Independent, London)
- Donald Trump blames airport chaos caused by ‘Muslim ban’ on Delta computers and ‘liberal tears’ (Independent, London)
- US diplomats around the world condemn Donald Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ (Independent, London)
- Isis hails Donald Trump’s Muslim immigration restrictions as a ‘blessed ban’ (Independent, London)
- Donald Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ will only make terrorist attacks, more, not less likely (Independent, London)
- Mo Farah calls Trump’s travel ban ‘ignorant and prejudiced’ (Guardian, London)
- White House claims travel ban institution was ‘orderly’ despite protests (Guardian, London)
- Europe fails in painting a united front against Trump’s travel ban (Guardian, London)
- How’s Trump’s rush to enact an immigration ban unleashed global chaos (New York Times, New York)
- Travelers stranded and protests swell over Trump order (New York Times, New York)
- How war on Islam became central to the Trump doctrine (Guardian, London)