by Serrano Sianturi
The recent travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries ordered by President Trump has resulted in confusion, protest, and anger in the US and around the world. US District Courts of Washington State and Minnesota have suspended the order, and consequently challenged the President’s constitutional power. White House’s emergency appeal to reinstate the ban was denied by a panel of judges of the US courts of appeals. In a recent hearing session, Trump whipped the court by saying that the halt of the travel ban order is disgraceful and political; a statement that even Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch says is “demoralising and disheartening.” Just within four weeks of his Presidency, Trump has made people around the world scratch their heads.
A lot has “happened” since Trump took the oval office at the Whitehouse, meaning that the President signed several executive orders but seemed without a clue in how to implement such orders. Determined to fulfill his campaign promises, Trump issued executive orders, and among others are on building the wall along the US-Mexico border, repeal the Obamacare, pulling out from Trans Pacific Partnership, and immigration ban on Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Trump’s idea in making Mexico pay for the border wall not only ended up in a complete rejection from Mexico, but also resulted in the cancellation of Mexican President’s visit to the White House. Repealing the Obamacare seems to take a much longer time than expected, and obviously needs a clear and viable program. Trump’s concern on more American products are made outside of the US also seems to fall short. In its 2014 report, the US Department of Commerce stated that US manufacturers sold U$5.6 trillion of goods, and 79 percent of it was “Made in America.” The most recent International Monetary Fund report shows that 84% of the goods in the US are made in the country. Moreover, the unemployment rate had decreased from 7.2 percent to 4.9 percent during the Obama administration. The Travel ban is also a baseless issue that provokes distress both in the US and across the globe.
It’s not a Muslim Ban; really?
In the name of domestic security and safety, the executive order on travel ban for the aforementioned countries was issued. This action resulted in implications on numerous subjects. As everyone knows, the order has no implementing guidelines for the immigration, thus gives a real hard time not only to those who arrive (or simply transit) at the airport, but also the officers on the ground. There is no guideline for the incoming people from the eight countries who hold dual citizenship, permanent resident (green card) status or legitimate visa. Moreover, it doesn’t say anything either about the citizens of the listed countries who already in the US holding valid visa.
The Trump administration insists that this order is not a Muslim ban, but it is an act to ensure the safety of Americans in the US. They also point out that the order says nothing about Muslim at all. It is hard to believe, however, that the order is not a Muslim Ban. The executive order does not stand alone; there are statements revolving it. On December 7, 2016, Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
Michael Flynn, Trump’s National Security Advisor who resigned just a few days after being appointed, stated that Islam is not a religion; it is a political ideology hiding behind the notion of being a religion. He went on saying that Islam is like cancer; it’s like a malignant cancer that has metastasized. Flynn also endorses Mike Cernovich, a vocal figure of the white nationalist alternative movement who said, “I went from libertarian to alt-right after realizing tolerance only went one way, and diversity is code for white genocide. Diversity is bad for national security.”
Carol M. Swain, Professor of Political Science and of Law at Vanderbilt University, argues that the executive order makes sense. First she argues that the seven Muslim nations most affected were already identified when Congress passed the “Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015.” This act prevented nationals of these countries from traveling to the United States without visas. Second, she also mentions that there are other Muslim majority countries – like Egypt, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates – that are not on the list, proving that the order is not a Muslim Ban.
She also agrees that Christian minorities in these countries are to be given a special attention. She is basing this argument on the data quoted from Elliot Abrams, a senior fellow of the Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, stating that only one-half of the 1% of the refugees admitted to the US by fall of 2016 was Christian.
Rudy Giuliani, a former New York City mayor and now Trump advisor, in an interview on Fox News suggested that the ban originally was aimed at Muslims as a whole, but he then redirected such aim by explaining how he and his team focusing the issue on areas of the world that create danger for the US. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:
So when he first announced it he said “Muslim ban.” He called me up, he said, “Put a commission together. Show me the right way to do it legally.” I put a commission together with judge Mukasey [Michael Mukasey, a former federal judge], with congressman McCaul [Texas Rep. Michael McCaul], Pete King [New York Rep. Peter King], a whole group of other very expert lawyers on this, and what we did is we focused on, instead of religion, danger—areas of the world that create danger for us, which is a factual basis, not a religious basis. Perfectly legal, perfectly sensible, and that’s what the ban is based on. It’s not based on religion; it’s based on places where there is substantial evidence that people are sending terrorists into our country.
So, is it a Muslim ban? Well, there are more facts stating that it is than facts saying otherwise. Is it a religious-based decision? The statement that urges special attention to Christians in the affected countries strongly suggests that it is religious-based.
Would the Travel Ban Ensure the Safety of Americans?
To the supporters, the ban is a sure thing in making America safe. So, let’s evaluate this through several facts. First, let’s review on the perpetrators of terrorism acts in the US, and see if any of them are refugee or even visitors from any of the listed countries on Travel ban, starting from the most recent events.
The San Bernardino shooting was carried out by Farook, a US citizen born in Chicago, and Malik, a permanent resident born and raised in Pakistan who lived in Saudi Arabia before coming to America. Orlando night club shooting was executed by Omar Mateen, US citizen born in New York whose parents are from Afghanistan.
Boston bombing was done by Tsarnaev brothers – US naturalized citizens born in Kyrgyzstan whose parents are from Chechnya. New York and New Jersey bombing was executed by Ahmad Khan Rahimi, a naturalized US citizen born in Afghanistan. The 9/11 attack was taken by individuals from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Lebanon. So, none of the perpetrators is from any of the countries listed on the Travel ban.
Now, let’s review the facts and figures of the act of terrorism in the US after the 9/11 and check out the percentage of Muslim’s involvement.
No. of Perpetrators, % in brackets
- Latino (42)
- Extreme Left Wing Groups (24)
- Others (16)
- Jewish Extremists (7)
- Islamic Extremists (6)
- Communists (5)
The START Global Terrorism Database reported that from 1970 to 2012, out of 2,400 terrorist attacks in the US, 60 or 2.5 percent were carried out by Muslims. Homeland Security also reported that from 9/11 to 2012 only 33 out of 300 American deaths caused by political violence and mass shooting were shouldered by Muslim Americans.
More recent report that spans the period of 40 years (1975 – 2015) by the Cato Institute shows that foreign nationals from the listed countries killed zero American on US soil. Charles Kurzman, the author of the Triangle Center, and a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill also revealed his recent research data. According to his report, the total number of deaths caused by Muslim Americans in the US since 9/11 is 123. For a mere comparison, in 2016 alone, 188 people were killed due to the mass shooting in the US in which none involved Muslim American extremist. In the meantime, the number of murder victims in the US since 9/11 has reached 230,000.
Another worthy comparison is on the victims of terrorist acts in the world. The U.S. National Counterterrorism Center reported in 2011 that in cases where the religious affiliation of terrorism casualties could be determined, Muslims suffered between 82 and 97 percent of terrorism-related fatalities over the past five years. The Counter Terrorism Center at the United States Military Academy at West Point in its 2009 report shows that Al Qaeda kills over seven times more Muslims than non-Muslims. In 2013, the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism’s Global Terrorism Database – a joint government-university program hosted by the University of Maryland revealed that between 2004 and 2013, about half of all terrorist attacks, and 60% of fatalities due to terrorist attacks, took place in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan – all of which have a mostly Muslim population.
Terrorism act is no small matter, and it needs serious attention and effective solution indeed, but judging from the facts above, the travel ban is more likely a mistargeting act.
- Are Fragile States Farming Terrorism?
- Refugee, Immigrant, and Native American
- Understanding Trump
- Confronting Terrorism
Serrano Sianturi is the Founder and Chairman of Sacred Bridge Foundation.
Illustration: The Death of an Old Page. Mixed media on paper, by Bintang Perkasa.