I travel a lot.
In the last six months of last year, I travelled nine times to countries in the Middle East, Africa, Canada and Europe.
Whenever I come back home, to Switzerland, I find myself standing before the passport counters having to make a decision: a choice between the line for Swiss and EU nationals and another for all other nationalities.
Nothing is discriminatory in this practice. Other countries have similar lines, fast-tracking their citizens and citizens of countries they have closer relationship to.
Yet I often find myself hesitating and when I can, I move to the line for the ‘other nationalities.’
It is not because I do not feel Swiss. I am proud to hold the Swiss nationality. It is a country to be proud of. I feel part of its fabric and every time I come back, I know I am back home.
I hesitate because I know, if I was traveling with my other passport, the Yemeni, I will face delays if not travel obstruction.
It is just my passport.
It is just my nationality.
Both cast a shadow of mistrust over me.
If I were male, early twenties, with the same passport, I would be immediately considered a potential terrorist.
So I move to the other counter simply to make a statement – just to myself, no one else. “With a Swiss or a Yemeni passport, you remain a human being.” Born free and equal in dignity and rights.
That statement is necessary to be made today, more than ever. This time I make it publicly in clear and loud voice.
I do not question any country’s right to introduce measures to protect its citizens from terrorism or Islamist extremism. This is a legitimate right.
In case you have not noticed, the majority of victims killed by Islamist extremism are citizens of Muslim majority countries.
What I do expect though is that these vetting measures respect universal fundamental rights, abide by international conventions and maintain the rule of law.
We need to protect the very values we are trying to defend.
President Trump’s ‘extreme vetting’ edict did exactly the opposite.
I do not call it a Muslim ban, because it is not.
There are more than 50 countries with a Muslim majority population. The travel ban of 90 days targets seven of these countries ― Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.
Citizens of Muslim faith of the other countries are allowed to enter the country. So it is not a Muslim ban.
Nevertheless, the edict remains discriminatory.
It targets whole groups of people not because of crimes they committed but because of their nationalities.
It violates the Geneva Conventions, which guarantee people ― facing war and death in their countries – safe refuge in other countries.
And it undermines the rule of law as it strips people with valid visas and green cards from the rights accorded to them by the law.
In other words, it undermines the American rule of law itself.
The Trump administration insists the edict is meant to protect the United States.
The facts defy this assertion. Citizens of the seven countries targeted by the ban were never involved in any of the terrorist attacks that took place since 9/11.
I will not complain that Saudi Arabia was not included in the edict.
I do not think any individual should be discriminated against because of his/her nationality.
We cannot pick and choose whom we think should be discriminated against.
We should instead abide by the universal principle of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all human beings.
President Trump’s edict was promoted as a measure that will make America safe (again).
The way by which it was introduced made it more of a publicity stunt by an amateur administration acting with hastiness and little if any consultation with the very institutions that are supposed to implement the edict.
The outcome was chaos, rage and confusion.
Instead of safety for America, the credibility of the United States and its global leadership were left shattered.
We have many challenges to deal with in our world – Islamic extremism is major among them.
When we articulate measures to address these challenges, it is wise to adhere and respect the very universal values we are trying to protect.