“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” These were the words that echoed across the nation on December 7, 2015, spoken by the man who’s now at the helm of the US presidency. As Trump stood remorseless on stage, with a roaring crowd that cheered, he hurriedly explained that “we have to do it”. Now, only days into his presidency, Donald Trump has done what many Democrats before him have failed to do—fulfil campaign promises.
Along with initiating the process to further militarize the US-Mexico border, Trump will reportedly be signing an executive order to restrict immigration from Muslim-majority countries that are considered to be a ‘national security threat’—these include Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen (you can read a draft of the order here). All 7 countries predicted to make the list have been the target of US military aggression, including covert operations. According to a report from the Council on Foreign Relations, the United States dropped 26,172 bombs in seven countries, mostly in Iraq and Syria, in 2016, an estimate the publication describes as being “undoubtedly low”. While the US hasn’t engaged in specific attacks in Sudan to the same extent as seen in the late 1990’s—a specific example being the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical company bombing in 1998—the US legacy of imperialism in Sudan has had devastating consequences, including a growing refugee crisis.
In Texas, middle-aged Hisham, a permanent US resident originally from Iraq, has been watching the news almost non-stop for any updates on Trump’s immigration policy (Hisham asked that we only use his first name for safety reasons). “I don’t know what I’m going to do. My fiance and her mother are going to be stuck [in Najaf] and I can’t explain to them why. How can I tell them that [Trump] is targeting Iraq because of “national security”? What has Iraq done?” His voice shakes. “I need to talk to an immigration lawyer because I want to know if this means that they shouldn’t even apply. I’m confused and hurt. Refugees running from hell shouldn’t have to worry about another hell trying to get to a place of safety.”
Arnesa Buljusmic-Kustura, author of Letters from Diaspora: Stories of War and its Aftermath, tells Mondoweiss that after working for the past year “to educate people, as well as legislators regarding the vetting process and how thorough it is in order to prevent something like this from happening”, she’s simply hurt. “I had expected that something like this ban would eventually be ordered but there is still so much shock.”
Buljusmic-Kustura, whose Tweet-storm documenting her struggles going through the refugee process as a Bosniak-Turk Muslim went viral in November, believes that the ban is absolutely unnecessary. “It is inhumane and only further shows the way racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia have been legitimized,” she argues. “Refugees are the most thoroughly screened and safest groups of people out there and instead of recognizing that and saving them from the mess that America had a hand in, the bombings that are making them want to flee, Trump and his camp have decided to turn them away. This ban will be the cause of so many deaths that could have been prevented had we allowed them entry. As someone who came from a Muslim majority country in order to escape the effects of war, I feel nothing but pain right now.”
The Center for Constitutional Rights released a statement denouncing Trump’s executive order, which it describes as being a measure that is directed at profiling Muslims. “This legally dubious gift to the hate-filled and xenophobic far right will be challenged by upstanding communities and civil and human rights organizations, not only here in the U.S. but around the world,” the statement reads.
“The Center for Constitutional Rights stands ready to support all targeted communities: we cannot let this happen.”
Muslims across the US are bracing themselves for what will likely be an uphill battle in defense of their civil liberties—but they’re not fighting their battles alone. The New York chapter of Jewish Voice For Peace (JVP) has joined New York’s Council on Islamic Relations (CAIR) chapter in calling for an “Emergency Rally for Muslim and Immigrant Rights” in Washington Square Park. “We will fight this every step of the way,” JVP-NY recently tweeted. The time for cross-organizational solidarity to show its teeth is now, more than ever.