Monday, 30 January 2017
When is not a ban a ban? Trump and the Muslims
During the presidential election campaign Trump was clear he wanted to 'ban' Muslims from coming to America. So it should not be a surprise to anyone that, early in his presidency, Trump has enacted tighter controls on immigrants coming to the USA from a specified list of countries that just happen to be overwhelmingly Muslim. It's not a 'ban' but extreme vetting and it's not a Muslim ban because not everyone from the countries in question if a Muslim.
Having got that out of the way, we need to appreciate that the intention - pretty much a stated intention - of the Executive Order is to prevent Muslims entering the USA. Now it's true that lots of big Muslim countries aren't included in the list, either because of Donald Trump's historic business interests or else because the seven selected countries were those excluded from the US 'visa waiver programme' in 2015 (or maybe some other reason nobody has thought of yet). For what it's worth, I suspect these were the Muslim countries where the law allowed Trump to enact an executive order in the manner he did.
This, of course, suggests that we will see further attempts to control the entry of Muslims into the USA - although it is likely that this will be couched in terms of terrorism rather than religion. There are over 3 million Muslims in the UK so, regardless of the stuff about terror, trying to ban Muslims places potential limits on the freedoms of UK citizens. We are right to criticise Trump's Executive Order but equally right to do so in a measured, directed manner that does not compromise other UK interests - not least the significant trading relationship with the USA.
Lastly, we should avoid the appeal of seeing Trump's purpose in terms of some sort of sinister anti-democracy conspiracy. The evidence so far is that, horrible though it might be, what you see with Donald Trump is what you get. It will be painful but it does seem that Trump's campaign rhetoric wasn't, as we've complained about all these years, mere rhetoric but was him actually saying what he intended to do in government. There is no coup.
So those folk complaining about the description of this action as a 'Muslim ban' - 'it's not a ban and it doesn't mention Muslims' they shout - are wrong. Trump's intention is absolutely that of banning Muslims. We know this because he said so. And all that's happened is the US law and constitution are making it hard for Trump to do what he said he wanted to do - ban Muslims. It may not be a ban but that is its intention. It may not mention Muslims but they are its target. It is, de facto, a Muslim Ban or at least an attempt at one.