In his executive action banning immigrants and suspending visas to travelers from seven Muslim majority countries, bellicose US President Donald Trump invoked the 9/11 attacks three times. Understandably, it was the deadliest of attacks, vividly captured in the public memory, which served as the dictating flashpoint in deciding the future of America’s policy towards foreign travelers and immigrants. However, the ban itself targeted none of the hijackers’ origin countries.
The 9/11 attacks were carried out by 19 men – from Saudi Arabia (15), United Arab Emirates (2), Egypt (1) and Lebanon (1). One might think that this would put the stated countries on the ban list. But the executive order “Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States,” targets the citizens of seven other countries — Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. What these seven countries do have in common, as Uri Friedman of The Atlantic reports, is the opposite: Strictly speaking, no Muslim citizen from these countries has committed a fatal attack on US soil since 1975.
As the Institute of Policy Studies, a progressive think tank points out: It’s no accident that of the seven countries identified, the U.S. is bombing five (Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya and Somalia), has troops deployed and military bases in another (Sudan), and imposes harsh sanctions and frequent threats against the last (Iran).
The irony is obvious – many of the refugees in these countries are a product of wars waged by the US itself. The misdiagnosis of the terror problem and the ‘arbitrariness’ of the solution are in plain sight. It has been also widely observed that President Trump happens to have no business holdings in any of these countries – unlike many other Muslim-majority countries ‘coincidentally’ left out.
Diverse American communities have come to oppose the unfair targeting of Muslims, a few Republican senators and several world leaders from Angela Merkel to Justin Trudeau were quick to openly oppose and denounce President Trump’s move as unlawful and unfair. While Baghdad and Tehran have strongly criticized Trump’s order and vowed to retaliate, the criticism for what is widely labeled as a “Muslim ban” from rest of the Muslim-majority countries has been subdued and slow to trickle in. Key US Allies like the Emirates, Qatar, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have made no condemning or ‘regretful’ statements whatsoever and these silences ring loudly in the international milieu.
The Newsweek observes that Saudi Arabia is the largest international sponsor of Islamic militant groups and among the largest exporters of fighters to ISIS. Yet, the US has long turned a blind eye to these misgivings due to the robust trade relationship of arms between the two (Saudi being the largest importer and US the largest exporter). Lately, the Egyptian President General Abdel Fateh El Sisi has struck a chummy relationship with Trump – he was the first leader to congratulate Donald Trump after his election victory. Trump has important business investments and partnerships in all these countries. His daughter Ivanka said in 2015 that their company was looking at “multiple opportunities in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Saudi Arabia — the four areas where we are seeing the most interest.” In fact, the Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan just defended Donald Trump’s immigration ban in a press conference as a “sovereign right” and advised the targeted countries to try to “solve” their “structural problems” before trying to “solve this issue with the United States”.
The leaders of Muslim majority countries have often paid lip service to the Ummah or the idea of a global community of Muslims. It projected some semblance of unity in the early 2000s on the taking Palestine’s cause in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Since then, however, national interests of various countries have been proved oft at variance and conflict with one another and even internally. The organizations and mouthpieces that purportedly represent all Muslims have largely become toothless and defunct in the practical sense, playing second fiddle to the official leadership’s policies.
The middle-east and northern Africa have increasingly become chaotic and unstable since the American war on Iraq, the beginning of the Arab spring movements and the rise of ISIS. Speaking about the currently ensconced governments and Heads of State in these countries, Rami G. Khouri of the American University of Beirut, told the New York Times, that they lack a strong basis of legitimacy at home. “They are delicately perched between the anger of their own people and the anger they might generate from the American president”, Khouri added.
No one wants to invite the other’s share of wrath. Thus, in the prevailing situation, they can hardly be expected to stand up for one another as Muslims.
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