Fury as Trump bars millions of Muslims from US

Defiance: Protesters at JFK airport, where at least 12 people were held on Saturday. © PA

Donald Trump has prevented citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering America, sparking an angry backlash. Is the president trying to protect his country or divide it?

Narges Bayani has lived in the USA since 2009. She is a PhD student at New York University. She has a scholarship to study the ancient world for the next five years.

But when she arrived at New York’s JFK airport this weekend, she was told to wait for two days — and then return to Iran.

She was just one of many people detained on arrival at US airports, or prevented from boarding flights overseas, thanks to an executive order from President Trump. On Friday Trump, who promised to take a ‘tough’ line on Muslim immigration before last year’s election, banned migration to the USA from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days. He also suspended a programme for admitting refugees for 120 days and barred Syrians from entering the USA indefinitely.

He said the bans would give intelligence agencies time to improve their procedures for screening potential terrorists. The USA will then cap refugee admissions at 50,000 per year and prioritise assisting Christians.

But the measure has rapidly turned lives upside down. Those affected include people who fled Islamic State; some British nationals; allies of the US armed forces; and human rights activists. Distance runner Sir Mo Farah, who was born in Somalia and is now unable to return to his home in Oregon, wrote yesterday: ‘It is deeply troubling that I will have to tell my children Daddy might not be able to come home’.

Large protests have ensued. This weekend people gathered at airports across the USA to chant that refugees, Muslims and immigrants were welcome. The hashtag #MuslimBan trended on Twitter. Rights groups brought urgent lawsuits. A New York judge quickly blocked part of the order.

Some senior counter-terrorism officials have criticised it, and questions have been raised over Trump’s choice of countries. The move has also exacerbated a partisan rift. Nancy Pelosi, a senior Democrat, said Trump had ‘mistaken cruelty for strength and prejudice for strategy’; prominent Republicans have largely remained silent.

Is this what Trump wants?

Fellow traveller?

His objective is to protect America, say some. He has seen the appalling jihadist violence in these seven countries, and taken a hardline approach to preventing it coming to the USA. And his voters remember 9/11: 65% of them say terrorism is a ‘very big’ problem at home. This ban is an attempt — however cack-handed — to save lives.

But Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum says this is an attempt to divide America. Trump wants to stir intolerant tendencies among supporters. He wants to inspire protests and outrage from opponents. Like Vladimir Putin, he is an authoritarian leader encouraging irresponsible behaviour to increase his own support.

You Decide

  1. Do you think that Donald Trump’s ban on citizens from Muslim-majority countries is justified?
  2. Is Trump trying to protect America or divide it?

Activities

  1. Write a short letter to someone three years younger than you, explaining what Trump has done.
  2. Fast forward a decade, to the year 2027. You are a historian writing about Trump’s decision. Write two pages, explaining what consequences it may have had and why.

Some People Say...

“Security is no replacement for liberty.”

What do you think?

Q & A

I’m not from one of these seven countries. Should I be concerned?
This measure sets a precedent which could have an impact on you. If there is a blanket ban on citizens from these countries now, could your country one day be affected? Does this disregard values you care about — or is it an attempt to defend lives? And is the leader of the free world using his power to stoke differences between Americans?
But I’m not planning to visit the USA anyway.
Even so, other countries may consider doing something similar — particularly if nationalist movements in Europe gain more support. It may also exacerbate tensions elsewhere: Iran, for example, is already considering banning US citizens in response to the measure. If such disputes heat up, your country may find itself needing to pick a side.

Word Watch

Seven
Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.
Terrorists
Trump’s order mentioned 9/11 three times. Since December 2015 the USA has suffered two deadly attacks in San Bernardino and Orlando.
Allies
Such as foreign interpreters.
Farah
He has won four Olympic gold medals — twice winning both the 5,000m and 10,000m. He was born in Somalia and has lived in Oregon for six years.
#MuslimBan
In December 2015 Trump called for ‘a total and complete shutdown on Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on’. Friday’s order did not go that far, and those targeted are not exclusively Muslim — but most are.
Choice
The seven countries were named as ‘countries of concern’ in a 2016 law on immigration visas. But some pointed out that Trump had not included any countries where he has personal business interests — such as Saudi Arabia, where 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were from.
Democrat
The Democratic party nominated Hillary Clinton for president last year; Trump ran as a Republican.
65%
According to a Pew survey in August 2016.

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