A lot of cant has been expended on social media in the last 24 hours about Donald Trump’s Executive Order issuing a three month long temporary ban on citizens of seven middle eastern countries from entering the United States.
I should say from the outset that I do not agree with the ban. It’s meant to look tough and meant to appear as if the President is protecting US citizens, when it does nothing of the sort. I condemn it unreservedly and I think the Prime Minister made a mistake in not doing the same.
But. And there is always a but when you actually dig down into these things. But, let’s put this into a little perspective before we all rush away with the idea that Trump has done something totally wicked, unprecedented and proves that he is a modern day incarnation of Hitler…
Back in 2011 President Obama did exactly the same thing. He banned all refugees from Iraq. Not for three months, but for six. There was not a peep from the media about this. Or if there was, I must have missed it. But that’s because of course Obama could do no wrong.
Sixteen middle eastern nations have a blanket ban on people from Israel entering their countries. Sixteen! They are: Algeria, Bangladesh, Brunei, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. They even ban anyone with an Israeli stamp in their passport. Do we hear any outrage on the left about this? Of course we don’t. Israel is fair game for discrimination.
So when we see all the virtue signalling that is going on on Twitter and Facebook about this, let’s just calmly bear these issues in mind.
I cannot see how any modern day, compassionate, democratic country can turn its back on refugees from war zones who are in desperate need. Britain doesn’t do that, and I find it astonishing that any American President would do that.
The truth is that Trump is using the prospect of refugees turning into terrorists to frighten the American people. If there was any evidence that refugees to America from these seven countries had actually had an involvement in terrorism in the United States over the last decade, then perhaps Trump might be able to cite that in aid of his announcement. But he can’t, because there isn’t any. In fact, the evidence that there is makes one wonder why he’s picked these seven countries rather than Saudi Arabia. Nineteen of the 9/11 bombers came from that country, yet it is not on Trump’s little list.
I respect the right of any nation to protect its citizens and to protect its borders. Security is the first duty of any government. But the measures you take to do that surely need to be based on efficacy and reason. This Executive Order is based on neither. It is based on prejudice and fearmongering. It’s not a Fascist measure – unless you’re happy to apply the word to Barack Obama too. It’s not a Nazi measure either, as some of the more unhinged commenters on social media have suggested. But it is deeply unpleasant and should never have been countenanced.
Theresa May had a very successful trip to the United States. Unfortunately she has now given her political opponents a stick to beat her with after she wasn’t fleet of foot enough to offer any critical words at all to Donald Trump during her press conference in Turkey when she was pressed on the issue by Faisal Islam. Just to say that United States immigration policy is up to the United States isn’t good enough. She could easily have made clear she expects all countries, including the US, to live up to their responsibilities when it comes to refugees. Instead, she now looks as if she daren’t make any criticism of the new President for fear of the consequences. I hope very much that this situation will be reversed in the next 48 hours.
Because if it isn’t, Somali born Mo Farah won’t be able to train in the United States and Iraqi born Nadhim Zahawi MP won’t be allowed to travel there either. The ban affects dual citizenship holders too, you see. What an utter travesty.
Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse is bang on the money when he says this…
“The President is right to focus attention on the obvious fact that borders matter. At the same time, while not technically a Muslim ban, this order is too broad. There are two ways to lose our generational battle against jihadism by losing touch with reality. The first is to keep pretending that jihadi terrorism has no connection to Islam or to certain countries. That’s been a disaster. And here’s the second way to fail: If we send a signal to the Middle East that the U.S. sees all Muslims as jihadis, the terrorist recruiters win by telling kids that America is banning Muslims and that this is America versus one religion. Both approaches are wrong, and both will make us less safe. Our generational fight against jihadism requires wisdom.”
My main fear is that this policy will actually encourage a major attack on US soil. Daesh will know that is they manage to perpetrate one, they will almost certainly manage to provoke Trump to take even more extreme measures. The consequences of that are unthinkable.
UPDATE 12.23am: PA is reporting:
“May does “not agree” with Donald Trump’s refugee ban and will make representations if it hits Britons, Downing Street said."
FURTHER READING: David French in the National Review offers a balanced perspective here.