Donald Trump’s Travel Ban Dents America’s Moral Image

How should ordinary Muslims around the world react to last month’s US Supreme Court decision to allow President Donald Trump’s travel ban to go partially into effect?

President Trump’s travel ban affects six Muslim-majority countries, despite earlier efforts by the White House to deny it was a Muslim ban. Trump’s election rant calling for a “total and complete shutdown” on Muslims entering the United States, was instrumental in formulating the decision last May of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to suspend the Executive Order.

The US Supreme Court’s ruling said the ban will apply only to foreigners with no connections to America and not to those “who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship” here. In the view of legal minds, and those opposing the ban, including tens of US states, governors, attorney generals, cities, groups, and organizations, the latest ruling and reference to bona fide relationship, will open the door for a “flood of litigation” in lower federal courts. So the controversy over the ban is not about to subside.

Many countries, human rights councils, and immigrant-rights organizations have denounced the ban, regardless of its partial implementation. The message that the ban sends is deafening and contentious at best. This, after all, is America and not any other country. Its Bill of Rights has been a beacon, an inspiration, and an ethical compass for nations around the world. The ban itself represents the thought process of narrow-minded Islamophobes who are a small minority in a country that still takes pride in its religious tolerance, multiculturalism, and immigrant heritage.

How the ban will infuse anti-Muslim sentiments in the United States and deepen racial, ethnic, religious and cultural divides on the short and medium-terms remains to be seen. Certainly since Trump took office there has been a surge in anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic hate crimes in America at rates never witnessed before. The aftershocks of the ban, both in America and beyond, will reverberate for some time.

In reality Trump’s Muslim ban has nothing to do with preserving America’s national security. Since the first ban was signed into an Executive Order back in January, not a single terror-related attack in America was tied to visitors or immigrants from the six Muslim-majority countries. The intricate cluster of America’s security agencies takes nothing for granted and will continue to check the backgrounds of those applying for visas or immigration not only from Muslim countries not included in the ban but from others as well. This is, after all, the twenty-first and not the nineteenth century, where such agencies have the tools to run background checks on almost every individual on the planet.

What the ban does, other than leave an ugly dent in America’s moral image of itself, is to deepen mistrust between the US government, the American people, and moderate Muslims everywhere.

Furthermore, the ban will certainly be used by Islamist radicals, whose anti-West agenda is unyielding, in their recruiting propaganda with some success. It will weaken the common argument that America, and by extension the West, has no issue with Muslims or their religion but with radicals who resort to terror to further a sick cause.

So how should moderate, peaceful, and law-abiding Muslims feel about the indiscriminate ban? It is not easy being a Muslim in a foreign country nowadays. The horrific crimes by so-called jihadists, who represent no one but themselves, have targeted mainly Muslims of various sects. But terrorist acts carried out by a small number of radicalized individuals, primarily in Europe, have tarnished the image of Muslims and their religion and received unprecedented negative publicity. Biased media have gone out of their way to generalize and misinform an anxious and confused public.

Still, anti-Muslim candidates in Europe were defeated in recent elections, underlining a conviction among the electorate to safeguard their countries’ laws and ideals. Such a test is yet to take place in the United States following Trump’s resounding victory last November. It is my belief that when faced with a choice Americans will choose to correct the current trajectory.

Muslims are tired of having to defend their religion. The wars in Iraq and Syria have taken their toll on millions, but Islam as a faith will come out as a religion that espouses peace, co-existence, and openness. Islam is a 1,400-year-old religion that has survived many tests and ordeals throughout its history.

It’s incredible that Trump still defends his ban even after addressing the heads of most Arab and Muslim leaders in Riyadh more than a month ago. The meeting was supposed to reset relations between America and the entire Muslim world. Instead, his Muslim ban sends a confrontational and provocative message to more than 1.6 billion people.