| by Ahnaf Kalam |
True to his campaign promises, President Trump quickly signed an executive order barring migrants from seven countries of origin to the United States under concerns of terrorism: Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and Sudan. No, the executive order is not a “Muslim ban,” as many people would have you believe, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t without its failings.
Many Americans hold a number of valid and rational concerns about immigration into the United States. ISIS has, after all, openly and repeatedly admitted that it plans to infiltrate America — as it has done to Europe — through its refugee program. No less unnervingly, Hezbollah also has a growing and troubling presence in South America and seeks to enter the United States through its southern border.
Trump’s executive order, whose goal is to stop the entry of potential foreign terrorists, does a very sloppy and ill-thought out job of addressing these issues. And apart from anything else — really just seems to be a way for him to shut everybody up and show them that he would actually do what he said he would.
To nobody’s surprise, a large segment of the population has reacted by assuming that honest and rational people with genuine concerns about the safety of their communities must all be nefarious racists, white nationalists, and members of the “Alt-Right.” They believe that simply by virtue of not wanting to have an immigration policy like Angela Merkel’s, you’re a heartless, selfish, bigot who has no compassion for the suffering of fellow human beings.
Those who advocate for an EU-style open borders policy in America for migrants and refugees also seem to forget what exactly it is that many of these refugees are fleeing; religious persecution and Islamist violence. It doesn’t do any favors to either Americans or refugees to become so inviting that we become tolerant of the same type of intolerance that is wrecking their home countries.
Not to mention, of course, that the migration and refugee crisis cannot simply be solved by taking in as many migrants as we can. We could hypothetically take in every single refugee escaping violence and persecution all across the world, but that doesn’t mean that it would actually solve anything. There would still be wars, terrorism, brutal dictators, famines, genocides, and a slew of other things wreaking havoc across the world. The supply of people all around the world who have legitimate claims to refugee status is practically endless and will only grow, while the demand side of countries who are not only willing but able to provide asylum simply falls short. If in 2017, the UN, the US, the UK, Turkey, France, Russia, Egypt, Iran, and others can’t even solve the problems with Syria and Iraq, then not even the entire world has any hope of solving all the other problems of the world from which people are escaping.
On the other side of the aisle, conservatives who are alarmed by what has been happening in Europe in recent years as a result of unprecedented mass immigration don’t want to see the same problems of terrorist attacks, sexual violence, and problems with integration that have been plaguing European cities, but they also seem to forget that Europe and the US are in very different positions.
It may be very tempting to look at the catastrophic results of Angela Merkel’s immigration policy and jump to the conclusion that if we don’t do something dramatic, then that’s what the US is doomed to look like, which is simply not the case — at least not for some time. The failures of the EU’s immigration policy can essentially be boiled down to the sheer number of people entering the EU, the absence of an effective vetting process, and the EU officials’ incessant denial in the face of the evidence that a problem — let alone one so large and disastrous — even exists.
The US, by contrast, does have a vetting process and is, as a society, much better at integrating foreigners than European states are. We have, at the very least, some vague idea of who is entering our borders by process of extensive background checks and screening procedures, and further, are better equipped at turning just about anybody into Americans than, say, a society of German Lutherans might be at integrating Sunni Muslims from Eritrea.
As disquieting as the situation in Europe has become, President Trump’s immigration ban makes the unwise assumption that by simply doing the opposite of what the EU has done in recent years, America can solve problems which it has yet to even face. Further, it effectively marries two very separate issues by citing issues of human rights abuses like honor killings and genital mutilation as concerns of national security. No, we don’t want those things to take place here in the US, but banning people — who themselves are likely victims of the practices in question — does absolutely nothing to make America any safer from terrorists. Which leads us to the next problem — the countries are all wrong. Where is Saudi Arabia, whose citizens were responsible for 9/11, and whose government spends billions of dollars every year exporting their extreme brand of violent Wahhabi-Salafism all over the world? Where is the concern over Pakistanis and Afghans with European Passports who are trying to enter the US through Europe, by which the process becomes much simpler?
That is not to say that there aren’t concerning things about the countries from which migration had temporarily been banned (not to President Trump’s credit). A recent PEW poll, for instance, found that 91% of Iraqis support Sharia law. In Sudan, the Muslim Brotherhood holds 323 of the 354 seats in the National Assembly. While it is true that there is a connection between being pro-Sharia law and being more likely to commit an act of religious terror, we shouldn’t close ourselves off completely from the often times liberal-minded victims of the same religious fascism and violence that Americans are so afraid of.
Our best hope of solving many of these larger problems facing the world is to empower liberals and critics of Islamism and religious fundamentalism, not banning them and deprive them of a platform to tell their stories.
Ahnaf Kalam is a Bengali-American ex-Muslim and writes on issues of politics and religion. You can follow him on Twitter @AhnafKalam
Header Photo: Gage Skidmore