During his campaign trial, Trump received an overwhelming amount of support by exploiting the racist, xenophobic and Islamophobic sentiment present in the U.S. He fomented America’s super villain, the Muslim, and promised his supporters a Muslim ban. At the expense of Muslims and other minority groups, he rode this support all the way to the Oval Office.
For a short time after his ascension to presidency, many believed that the hatred Trump spewed throughout his campaign was just a means of acquiring support – that he would not actually go through with his bigoted, offensive, and inhumane promises.
However, on January 27, Trump announced an executive order that bans all immigrants and visa holders from seven Muslim-majority countries, bars refugees from entering the U.S. for 120 days and bans Syrian refugees indefinitely.
Moreover, while the order does not explicitly single out one religion, it excludes Muslim refugees and gives officials the authority to welcome refugees of other faiths.
This order demonstrates that the vile rhetoric of Trump’s campaign will continue throughout his presidency. The order uses 9/11 attacks as a justification, stating the ban will allow the government to perfect an extreme vetting system that will “keep radical terrorists out of the U.S.” It states:
In order to protect Americans, we must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bare hostile attitudes towards our country and its founding principles.
This order lacks any semblance of logic. It puts blame on the state department for thwarting counselor officer’s attempts to accurately inspect the visa applications of the 19 foreign nationals who carried out the attacks on the Twin Towers in 2001. It bans people from seven Muslim-majority countries: Somalia, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Sudan, Iran and Libya. This is absurd and nonsensical as none of the 19 terrorist belonged to these countries.
Conspicuously absent are the countries of origins of all the hijackers of the 9/11 attacks as well as countries of origins of other terrorists who have attacked the U.S. Countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia UAE, Turkey, and Lebanon do not make the list for two important reasons: first, the Trump family does extensive business in these countries. Second, these countries hold historic and strategic geopolitical importance for the US. Banning people from these client states would have disastrous consequences for US influence in the Middle East.
Ultimately, what this means is that this ban is not about post-9/11 security; rather it is about institutionalized religious persecution. What Trump and his administration fail to understand is that this ban does not benefit the U.S. nor does it keep radical terrorists out. In fact, it does the complete opposite: it provides terrorist organizations, like ISIS, the ammunition it needs to increase support, especially at a time when it is loosing important battles in Iraq and Syria.
ISIS propagates that the West, particularly the U.S., is at war with Islam. They attempt to convince Muslims that it is their duty to violently defend Islam against those who are trying to eliminate it – by all means necessary. The recruitment strategies of ISIS are based on presenting themselves as an organized and cohesive resistance to this abomination. Trump’s executive order feeds into this ludicrous narrative. It has been long acknowledged that successfully defeating ISIS necessitates a concrete effort to discredit radical “jihadist” terrorist ideology. But Trump’s Muslim ban undercuts this strategy and as such, it is a colossal victory for ISIS. Essentially, they are being handed an official declaration from the American President, in front of the whole world, that what they have been saying about the war on Islam by the West is wholly and completely true. So, in an effort to reduce the threat of a terrorist attack, Trump might actually by increasing it.
Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain issued a joint statement on Saturday, affirming this conclusion: “Our most important allies in the fight against ISIL are the vast majority of Muslims who reject its apocalyptic ideology of hatred. This executive order sends a signal, intended or not, that America does not want Muslims coming into our country. That is why we fear this executive order may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security.”
Shehnoor Khurram is an MA candidate at York University, studying Political Science. She is specializing in Political Islam, terrorism and counter-terrorism, as well as the politics of the Middle East.