President Trump’s decision to implement a temporary block on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries has generated a certain amount of excitement, with hysterical protests around the world. But it would be good to get it into some perspective. It has been characterised as an “anti Muslim” or even “Islamophobic” policy. It is worth remembering that a “phobia” is defined as an irrational fear. Given the extent of terrorist activity undertaken by ISIL and associated groups, fear of Islamic terrorism is hardly irrational.
Of course Trump is simply implementing the policy promises from his election campaign – policies for which he has a clear mandate. Some would give him credit for keeping his word.
Trump’s ban is about security, not about religion. It just happens, sadly, that Islamic terrorism is the major threat of the moment. We might also reflect that Trump’s list of seven countries is not Trump’s list at all – it was drawn up previously by the Obama administration. It is pointed out that the worst terrorist atrocity in the USA – the Twin Towers – largely involved terrorists from Saudi Arabia, which is not on the list. Yes. But the list identifies countries with a major Islamist presence, and (in most cases) where civil order and the rule of law are in question. They therefore arguably present the greatest risk.
Some point out that rather few terrorist events in the USA have been caused by Muslim immigrants, and this is true. But Americans can see what is happening in Europe, and can hardly be blamed for taking preventive measures before the same problems reach their shores.
Taking steps against potential hostile threats is by no means new. Indeed it is a typical response of democratic countries in time of war. And while the USA is not at war directly, it (and we) face very serious threats of asymmetric hostilities from Islamic terrorists, which have many of the characteristics of war.
During the Second World War, America interned 100,000+ Japanese in their country. Britain interned Germans during the First World War and again in the Second World War. Probably most of those interned were decent, peace-loving people who posed no threat (just as most would-be visitors to the US probably pose no threat) , but because some were believed to be a threat, it was deemed necessary to intern them all.
It doesn’t necessarily take a right-wing Republican President to take this kind of action. Jimmy Carter during the Iranian Hostage crisis imposed a ban on visitors from Iran. That paragon of left-wing values Saint Obama himself imposed a ban on visitors from Iraq for six months in 2011.
Of course the anti-Trump brigade (including the Daily Mirror) have rushed out with opinion pieces explaining why Trump’s action is not quite the same. But in fact on six occasions the US has chosen to ban immigrants for a period.
There are other examples around the world of countries excluding visitors or immigrants from other particular states. There are reportedly sixteen countries that ban visitors from Israel – and this is specifically because they are from Israel, not for any perceived terrorist threat. This is blatant discrimination on the grounds of nationality. In a recent radio interview, I put this to Professor of Politics Anthony Glees. He came back with “Two wrongs don’t make a right”. Well done the Professor. But that’s not the point, Anthony. The question is: why are you up in arms against President Trump’s ban (which had some justification in security terms) yet have nothing to say about the 16-country ban on Israel (which had none)?
Professor Glees at least conceded that asylum seekers should be vetted, and if their claims were in doubt, excluded and returned. But with thousands or tens of thousands arriving, mainly from chaotic war zones, how on earth can reliable and comprehensive information be obtained on each case? It can’t. ISIL infiltrators don’t arrive saying “I’m from ISIL, and I have an AK47 in my suitcase”. No. They have training. They have detailed (though fabricated) back-stories to support their applications. Arguably they may even be more successful on that basis than genuine asylum seekers. The truth is that there is significant doubt in virtually every case, so on Professor Glees’ advice, we should refuse entry to all – which is exactly what President Trump is doing.
Of course President Trump’s temporary ban is open to criticism on the details of its implementation. But the widespread attacks on the President, the wave of synthetic outrage, is entirely lacking in justification. It is, quite simply, downright naked prejudice and anti-American bile.