On Monday, President Trump signed his new Executive Order (without fanfare this time), and instead had Attorney General Sessions, Secretary of State Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary Kelly roll it out to the public. The revised “travel ban” is pretty similar to the first one, except that Iraq is no longer on the list, current visa and green-card holders are exempt, the preference for religious minorities is excluded and the indefinite ban on Syrian refugees is eliminated.
In other words, it is a softer, more legally sound piece of legislation that on the surface appears like some sort of shift from the initial ban, but don’t be fooled, this is still very much the same draconian Muslim ban.
For a President, an administration and a party that regularly denounces political correctness, this sure is the most politically correct way of beginning a ban on Muslims. Guess they just don’t have the courage to say what it really is ― so I will.
By now, everyone the world over is likely familiar with Trump’s campaign promise calling for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the country. Those words didn’t just slip out of his mouth, and he didn’t misspeak, though he attempted to backtrack later by stating that it was going to apply to countries with a history of terrorism and that we were going to have “extreme vetting.”
He and his handlers knew exactly what they were doing. And more importantly perhaps, they knew that they could get away with it. This didn’t happen overnight and it didn’t start with Trump. He just seized upon what was already festering out there for years and ran with it – all the way to the highest office in the land.
It’s not accurate to dismiss all Trump supporters as Islamophobes, or act as if this president and this administration are the only Islamophobic entities out there ― the problem is much larger than that. Some of his supporters said they simply “look the other way” when Trump makes his anti-Muslim comments (or other outrageous comments for that matter). While that is a pathetic way to excuse xenophobia, they are not the only ones that do it.
Exhibit A: Bill Maher. A self-proclaimed liberal who “stands for liberal causes,” Maher has made anti-Islamic propaganda a staple of his weekly show, Real Time, to the point where one would think he’s getting a cut from the multi-million dollar Islamophobia industry.
How many liberals/progressives have had the courage to call him out? How many still go on his show or bring him on their own broadcasts and just “look the other way” when he goes there?
When elected official after elected official passed or attempted to pass “anti-Sharia laws,” as if Sharia was somehow invading and overtaking the Constitution, how many still voted for those candidates or worked alongside them and just looked the other way? And when the abhorrent idea of banning Muslims was first proposed by then-candidate Trump, how many journalists and networks ran with it for its sensational quality and thereby normalized such an outrageous concept?
Gen. Michael Flynn had referred to Islam as a “malignant cancer”; he became National Security Advisor (though he later had to resign, but that’s a separate story). Muslim students in Oklahoma recently tried to meet their State Rep. John Bennett but were instead handed a questionnaire at his office that asked such thought-provoking questions like, “Do you beat your wife?” Can you imagine if such a questionnaire were handed to any other group of students before an elected official agreed to meet with them? Neither can I.
Day in and day out you have talking heads, pundits and Islamophobes inundating our airwaves spreading misinformation and propaganda and nobody holds them accountable. People like Sean Hannity sit on their soapbox and attempt to portray all Muslim countries as homogeneous, backward places where women can’t drive and they have no rights. It is overt deception and the epitome of creating hysteria – and he gets away with it every single day. Then on supposed mainstream outlets, Muslims are still almost always discussed in the context of terrorism, war, extremism, etc. And everyone seems to just “look the other way.”
Fear-mongering brought us legislation like the Patriot Act, troubling provisions under the NDAA, Gitmo, torture, NSA spying and unnecessary wars like Iraq. The idea of the proverbial “Muslim boogeyman” is what allowed people to just ignore or look the other way when President Obama exponentially increased and expanded the drone campaign in places like Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere, as well as covert actions in a host of countries.
Islamophobia is why Muslims are often strategically boxed out of high-level positions and entire smear campaigns are run against them if they seek political office. It is why alleged progressive politicians will be quick to jump on the #standwithaMuslim bandwagon, but will rarely, if ever, hire a Muslim themselves or promote one to a significantly visible position within their own staff. It is why newsrooms at most major networks and publications usually lack a strong Muslim voice to bring balance. The difference between Republicans and Democrats is often akin to the old debate about the north vs. the south: do you prefer someone to be in your face with their bigotry, or more subliminal by smiling in your face and still shutting you out?
There’s no denying that Muslim Ban 2.0 is precisely that – a test run on banning Muslims. When the only countries banned are Muslim-majority, then it is pretty clear what message is being sent. The idea that not all Muslims are banned somehow makes this Executive Order okay is such a farce. That argument is so baseless and pitiful that it should never even see the light of day. It’s like arguing that an employer who discriminates against female employees isn’t doing anything wrong because they aren’t discriminating against every woman on the planet. Bottom line: you don’t need to ban all Muslims or discriminate against every single Muslim in order to discriminate against that group. To act as if this isn’t a Muslim ban is an insult to every Muslim and thinking person for that matter.
Trump and his surrogates have been very clear on where they stand. After the botched rollout of the first ban, they figured out what tweaks they needed to make in order to get this pushed through. This legislation is a false sense of security and all it does is solidify Islamophobia into law. It is the beginning of a dangerous, slippery slope. There is even a section of the order that states that additional countries can be added as “deemed necessary for the security or welfare of the United States.” Who knows what this could lead to. And who’s to say that other previously unimaginable harsh measures won’t be taken against American Muslims down the line? Remember, during his confirmation hearing, Secretary Tillerson never completely ruled out a Muslim registry (he basically dodged the question).
The first Executive Order was effectively stopped by the 9th circuit court of appeals after intense pushback from attorneys and the public who rallied to the side of Muslims instantaneously. It was a beautiful moment when people from all walks of life marched, sat in airports and stood in solidarity with the Muslim community. The question going forward will be, are we going to see such sustained momentum? Monday’s announcement didn’t spur the same massive protests, and at Tuesday’s White House press briefing, not one journalist asked Press Secretary Spicer about the ban. No journalist asked him Wednesday either.
Have people already begun to look the other way? I sure hope not, because no matter how much they may try to make it politically and legally correct, a Muslim ban by another name is still very much a Muslim ban.