October 2018 Church & State - October 2018

Unhappy Birthday: The Last Iteration Of President Trump's Muslim Ban Is A Year Old – And It Has Not Aged Well.

  Rokia Hassanein

Aden Hassan came to the United States in 2017 with high hopes for the future – only to be separated from his family because of President Donald J. Trump’s Muslim and refugee ban.

“My mother and my family were supposed to follow, but because of the Muslim ban, my family has been unable to come,” Hassan told AU before the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments for the Muslim ban case. “They are still not yet allowed to come.”

And for Safoura Kashfipour, an Iran­ian-American Muslim, Trump’s Muslim ban has had tangible, nega­tive effects: It has also separated her from her family.

“My uncle had been in line for a visa for the longest time. With the Muslim ban, he was denied entry, and now he had to move his whole life outside of Iran and try to apply again from another country not listed on the ban,” Kashfipour said. “It’s preposterous, to say the least.”

Safoura Kashfipour protests the Muslim ban

(Photo: Iranian-American Safoura Kashfipour protests Trump’s Muslim ban.)

These stories are unfortunately not uncommon, and thanks to the Supreme Court’s disappointing 5-4 ruling that upheld Trump’s third iteration of the Muslim ban, the policy continues to harm people – indefinitely.

The nation recently marked the one-year anniversary of Muslim ban 3.0, a policy that continues to show its inhumanity and discriminates against people because of their faith.

“The ban affects people’s lives directly,” Kashfipour said. “It spreads ignorance, allows for xenophobia to take hold and enforces prejudices of beautiful people and countries that the education system fails to recognize. It’s sad.”

In its Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Col­orado Civil Rights Commission de­ci­sion, the Supreme Court criticized state commissioners for “hostility” toward the religious beliefs of a Chris­tian baker. But in the Muslim ban case, the court ignored Trump’s hostility toward Muslims.

This is despite the fact that while campaigning for the presidency, Trump called for “a total and com­plete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what … is going on.”

He even suggested creating a data­base to register Muslims, lied about Muslims’ reactions to the 9/11 terror­ist attacks and claimed that he thinks “Islam hates us,” which fur­ther den­igrated Muslim Americans as “others”; i.e., less “American” than other Ameri­cans of faith.

So one may ask: Religious free­dom for whom? That question re­mains unanswered, thanks to the lack of accountability from the Trump ad­min­istration.

A year later, we still have no proof that Trump’s Muslim ban 3.0 was based on anything other than his hostility toward Muslims. That’s why Americans United and its allies are in court to force the administration to produce reports that Trump claims justify the ban.

When Trump issued the third ban in late September 2017, he claimed that the Departments of State and Homeland Security conducted a “worldwide review” of other count­ries’ immigra­tion procedures to justify his ban. To this day, the ad­min­­istration hasn’t provided any evidence to back up these claims.

Americans United, Muslim Advo­cates, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and the law firm Covington & Burling LLP filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in July 2017 with the State Department asking officials to pro­duce the reports the administra­tion claims to have used in creating the three iterations of the Muslim ban. More than a year has passed, but the government still hasn’t produced any such documents.

After the administration didn’t budge, AU and its allies filed a law­suit, Brennan Center for Justice v. U.S. Department of State, to force the gov­ern­ment to fulfill its legal obliga­tion to provide the information or explain why it couldn’t. A federal judge in January ordered the govern­ment to produce the docu­ments AU requested by Feb. 9, 2018, or provide an explan­ation for why the reports were being withheld. But still, the Trump admin­is­tration hasn’t pro­duced any sub­stan­tive docu­ments.

As the push for transparency con­tinues, AU’s lawsuit against the ad­min­istration challenging the Mus­lim ban is still pending. AU joined Mus­lim Advocates and the law firm Cov­ington & Burling in filing the first lawsuit to challenge Muslim ban 3.0, Iranian Alliances Across Borders v. Trump.

“The government’s lack of trans­parency about the justification for the ban and the availability of waivers for people from banned countries makes it even more difficult to believe the Trump administration was acting on anything other than the president’s well-documented bias against Mus­lims,” said Liz Hayes, AU’s assistant director of commun­ications, in a June 19 “Wall of Sepa­ration” blog. “Real people are being harmed – including those seeking desperately needed waivers.”

The government’s lack of trans­parency about the justification for the ban and the availability of waivers for people from banned countries makes it even more difficult to believe the Trump administration was acting on anything other than the president’s well-documented bias against Mus­lims.

~ Liz Hayes, AU’s assistant director of commun­ications

AU continues to represent people harmed by the ban. This includes an elderly Maryland couple who des­perately want to see their son, who is being blocked from entering the United States from Iran; two Ameri­can women who have to live abroad to be with the men they love; a married couple separated from family; and a public-school teacher who has been unable to see her brother.

Family separation isn’t where the harm ends, either.

The Muslim ban and the Islamo­pho­bic rhetoric associated with it isn’t just hurting Muslims. For a handful of the American population that’s per­ceived to be Muslim be­cause of their ethnicity or skin color, the ban and Trump’s anti-Muslim rhet­­oric has caused harm in their commu­nities and made them feel like out­siders.

According to researchers, there’s a correlation between Trump’s anti-Mus­lim tweets and hate crimes against Muslims.

In a research paper titled “Making Am­erica Hate Again? Twitter and Hate Crime Under Trump,” research­ers Kars­­ten Müller and Carlo Schwarz at the University of Warwick in Eng­land ex­amine anti-Muslim hate crimes recorded by the FBI and their correla­tion with how Trump tweets about Islam.

“Whether it’s a tweet or whether it’s in a policy [Trump is] introducing, or if it’s in a policy someone in his ad­min­istration is introducing, I think it all comes together to create this kind of environment where targeting Mus­lims is acceptable or has become ac­cep­table,” Madihha Ahussain, spec­ial coun­sel for anti-Muslim bigotry at Mus­lim Advocates, told Religion News Ser­vice.

This research aligns with stories that religious and ethnic minorities have shared with Americans United.

“Especially since the Muslim ban went into effect, as a Hindu person from Pakistan, I’ve noticed height­ened hostility towards my community and other religious minorities,” Mon­i­ca Ahuja, a Hindu American fashion blogger, said. “Getting pulled over at the airport when I travel with my passport has become a new norm for me.”

After Trump’s election, Rasha Kath­­­a­wa, a Catholic Iraqi-American, told Church & State that she “felt like I did not belong here [America], that this was not a place for me anymore.” (See “Searching for Acceptance,” April 2018 Church & State.)

Kathawa cited Trump’s anti-Mus­lim and xenophobic rhetoric as the biggest factors for this, given that people often perceive her to be Mus­lim since she’s from Iraq. She added that even if she were Muslim, hate speech, harassment and other forms of bigotry would be unac­ceptable.

With the Supreme Court uphol­ding the ban, many Americans are left wondering why the court didn’t learn from history, particularly from Kore­matsu v. United States, in which the court allowed President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s executive order send­ing  Japanese Americans to intern­ment camps to remain intact. (The U.S. government formally apologized for the internment in 1988.)

Prior to the decision, The New York Times explained that “the jus­tices will consider how much weight to give to Mr. Trump’s cam­paign statements. And they will act in the shadow of their own decision in Korematsu v. Uni­ted States, which endorsed [Presi­dent Franklin] Roose­velt’s 1942 order and is almost uni­ver­sal­ly viewed as a shameful mis­take.”

Yet, despite the warnings of chil­dren of Japanese-Americans held in those wartime detention camps that the Muslim ban case has historical parallels, the Supreme Court has again shamefully rubber-stamped a presidential executive act of ethno­xenophobic discrimination against an entire class of people.

“History teaches caution and skep­ticism when vague notions of nation­al security are used to justify vast, unprecedented exclusionary measures that target disfavored clas­ses,” the Jap­anese American Citi­zens League wrote to the high court.

While we await evidence of vali­dation from the Trump admin­istration on why it imple­mented the bans, the policy remains unpopular. According to Pew Research Center, white evan­gel­icals are the only religious group in the country in support of the ban, at 76 percent.

The ban also doesn’t fare well with youth activists, which could sig­nal a brighter future for religious-free­dom activism. Students who partici­pated in Americans United’s essay contest tended significantly to identi­fy the Muslim ban as the biggest threat to religious freedom within the past year.

Rimpal Bajwa, a Sikh-American high school student from Washington who won first place in the contest, and Ariel Hall, a Muslim African-American high-schooler from Ohio who won third place, described how they and people in their communities have experienced intolerance as a result of the ban.

As the country embarks on Mus­lim ban 3.0’s anniversary, acti­vists are continuing to push for leg­is­lative action to block the ban.

“We will not rest while hate drives this and other shameful policies,” AU’s president and CEO Rachel Laser said at the June rally outside the Supreme Court when the decision was issued. “Together, we will contin­ue to fight for the very soul of our country. … In our America, all religi­ons are welcome here.”      

We will not rest while hate drives this and other shameful policies. Together, we will contin­ue to fight for the very soul of our country. … In our America, all religi­ons are welcome here.

~ Rachel Laser, AU’s president and CEO

Congress needs to hear from you!

Urge your legislators to co-sponsor the Do No Harm Act today.

The Do No Harm Act will help ensure that our laws are a shield to protect religious freedom and not used as a sword to harm others by undermining civil rights laws and denying access to health care.

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