By: Joe Bradshaw
The United States has been thrown into chaos by the new executive administration. While some of the many Executive Orders (EO) coming out of the White House are ambiguous, one wasn’t. Airports were thrown into chaos on January 27th, not by a gunman or a hijacking but, by the new federal government. But the #MuslimBan isn’t just being talked about all over the world. Navy veteran, Joe Bradshaw explains how his conversation went with a teacher friend who is currently working in Senegal.
Two weeks ago my friend Amadu asked me, “What’s the deal with Trump? Is he going to ban me from the U.S. or what?” Amadu is a teacher who works for a study abroad program in Dakar, Senegal. He studied in the United States. He loves American culture and he is a Muslim. In the summer he goes to a small Midwest town to teach French. He laughs about being the only Muslim-and the only black person in town where he teaches – saying it makes him ‘distinguished’.
We were eating shwarma, a mixed meat dish, and peanuts. I drank a beer, and took long swig before trying to reassure him. “That won’t happen..It’s totally against our Constitution. Anyway, you know, people would never stand for that kind of shit.” Finally, I stopped babbling and told him the truth, “I don’t know. I hope not.”
The next day Donald Trump signed an executive order that temporarily barred citizens from seven Muslim countries (Iran, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Libya) from entering the U.S, created preferences for Christian refugees over Muslims and blocked all refugees from Syria. First, the executive order is a lose – lose deal. It has compromised our integrity and undermined our values, all while failing to make America any safer and worsening the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable people.
With the stroke of a pen Mr. Trump undermined the credibility of the United States among Muslims the world over. The work of State Department officials and NGO reps working on peace-building in Muslim nations will be impeded. Human intelligence in Muslim nations will now be harder to come by. Our lack of commitment to the victims of extremism in the seven banned nations has been made clear by our refusal to accept refugees. For the perpetrators of violence within those nations, the order is a green light. I was overjoyed when protesters flocked to airports, volunteer lawyers offered assistance and federal judges challenged the reach of Trump’s executive order.
Currently, the legality of the executive order is under consideration in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. But, it is troubling how freely the Trump administration has lied to the public about the threat migrants pose from countries banned by the executive order. August Flentje the Justice Department lawyer arguing on behalf of the Federal government cited stateside Somali immigrants’ involvement in al-Shabab even though his team had filed no documents to support his claim. More alarmingly top aides have invented terror attacks to support the administrations executive order. Sean Spicer cited a non-existent terror attack in Atlanta three times to justify the executive order. Spicer latter claimed he meant the Pulse club attack in Orlando – which still does little to advance the case for the ban since the attacker, Omar Mateen, was a U.S. citizen of Afghani descent.
Kellyanne Conway completely fabricated a massacre at Bowling Green University. Most people now know there was no terror attack at Bowling Green, KY. There was a failed attempt to ship weapons to Iraq, underscoring the inconvenient fact the majority of the violence associated with Islamist extremism occurs abroad. The majority of attackers in the West have been home grown terrorists – radicalized through the belief that Islam and the West are engaged in a ‘clash of civilizations.’
When Trump signed his executive order he aided recruiters reaching out to disaffected young Muslims in France, England and the United States over the internet. Islamist extremists with access to funding and training can still enter the United States through nations that were not banned. Terrorists could come to the U.S. through Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt or the U.A.E – the home countries of the 9/11 hijackers.
Make no mistake, there are violent Islamists in the world. The executive order helped these enemies recruit at home and has alienated potential allies abroad. The administration responded to the public outrage over the ban with knee-jerk fear-mongering and outright lies. Their patently false statements resonate with their base because far too many people in the states have little exposure to Muslims and a skewed view of the threat Islamist extremist pose to the United States.
Amadu likes his trips to the Midwest because being the town’s ‘distinguished’ African Muslim provides an endless supply of teachable moments through interactions with people who have never met a West African Muslim. He doesn’t drink but he’s still the kind of guy you can grab a beer with. If you don’t have Muslim friends, please borrow mine.
**Update: The 9th Circuit Court returned a unanimous decision against the government. Trump has indicated an appeal to the Supreme Court is forthcoming.
Joe Bradshaw is 10 year veteran of the U.S. Navy and former organizer for the Democratic Party of Virginia. He is a 2017 Fulbright fellow and PhD candidate in African History at Michigan State. His work focuses on Islam and politics in Francophone West Africa.