Trump’s Muslim ban

The spectre of the new ‘Muslim Ban’ is likely to increase, rather than reduce, the incentive for radical extremists claiming to operate under the banner of Islam.

Feb 10, 2017

By Fr Justin Glyn SJ
The spectre of the new ‘Muslim Ban’ is likely to increase, rather than reduce, the incentive for radical extremists claiming to operate under the banner of Islam.

Trump’s executive order halting refugee resettlement and banning nationals of seven countries from entry to the US will only serve as a rallying point for ISIS and their kin, reinforcing their propaganda that Islam and the governments of the West are incompatible.

The equal and opposite religious extremisms of the US National Security State and the radical Salafists of the Middle East need and feed off each other.

Aside from the counterproductive nature of the sanctions, if they were aimed at alleged terrorists, they are spectacularly misdirected. No US lives have been lost to terror in America inflicted by Iranians or Iraqis. In addition, countries whose citizens have been alleged to have been involved in jihadi attacks on the US have conspicuously not been sanctioned (e.g. Saudi Arabia and Egypt).

So if it is not about terrorism, it is worth asking ourselves what is really at stake here. The answers are vital to understanding why and how people are manipulated into supporting their own disempowerment — a dangerous thing in a democracy.

It is worth noticing that even insiders in the Trump administration seem to agree that bigotry, rather than national security, is what they had in mind.

That said, the right wingers who support the cruel and criminal madness of stripping people of their visas, and separating families in the process, also have a point when they say that the US government is not beginning a new persecution, but merely continuing and deepening the persecutions of their predecessors.

While previous administrations were more subtle in their actions than Trump’s, it is undoubtedly true that the nationals now picked for sanction were those who were already targeted for visa penalties in the Obama years and were mostly citizens of countries being bombed or sanctioned by the US government.

Indeed, Trump’s abuses are new in degree, rather than kind: the anti-Muslim rhetoric and national security machine he is turning on his victims was built under his predecessors.

What is truly frightening about Trump’s actions is that the lack of any real connection to terrorism and the fact that the new measures have been taken against nationals of states already under sanction, using pre-existent architecture of persecution, makes it look decidedly like a test case. It is a raw demonstration of arbitrary power against citizens of countries without the influence within the US to fight back. As such, not only will it allow the government to test the measure of domestic resistance at home but any violent response will, of course, provoke more, and more serious, repression.

In short, what we are seeing is a use of existing ‘security’ apparatus to test the waters for, and to serve as the basis of, further erosions of civil liberties. It hardly seems coincidental that experienced voices who might be in a position to speak against such erosions have been removed from the National Security Council and the State and Justice Departments.

We have already seen that court orders halting some of the detentions or deportations are not being obeyed — and government departments have, in some cases, made it quite clear that they have no intention of obeying them either. Bear in mind, judicial control over the executive is probably the only effective day-to-day control in a state that prevents it from falling into tyranny.

This is not the way power in a democracy is exercised ... and things don’t appear to be on a good trajectory.--Eureka Street

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