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Heavy weather for Trump Muslim ban

8 FEBRUARY 2017: US President Donald Trump's executive diktat to temporarily deny nationals of seven - largely Muslim - countries entry to the USA has stirred up a hornet's nest, worldwide. With protests in various European and world capitals, and across the States, legal minds wrestle with this crudely veiled 'Muslim ban' though the 'B' word has been officially jettisoned from the White House lexicon.

Writes The New York Times, "That the order, breathtaking in scope and inflammatory in tone, was issued on Holocaust Remembrance Day spoke of the president’s callousness and indifference to history, to America’s deepest lessons about its own values." Describing the decision as "cowardly and dangerous" the editorial continues, "The order’s language makes clear that the xenophobia and Islamophobia that permeated Mr. Trump’s campaign are to stain his presidency as well. Un-American as they are, they are now American policy."

Leading Middle East voice, Al Jazeera describes the ban as a "dangerous distraction". It goes on to say, "There is something peculiar about this list. The draft of the executive order begins by citing 9/11 as a failure of the 'visa-issuance process'. It blames the state department for preventing 'counselor officers from properly scrutinizing the visa applications of several of the 19 foreign nationals who went on to murder 3000 Americans.'

"The overwhelming majority of those individuals were from Saudi Arabia, yet, Saudi Arabia is not on the list. Furthermore, when it comes to 'homegrown terrorism' of all the Muslims accused, charged, convicted and killed, some of them are from these seven countries in Trump's list and some are not, some are immigrants and some are American citizens, and a number of them have been entrapped by federal law-enforcement agencies. This either means that the list needs to be much longer or there is something more than national security concerns at play. "

Politicus USA decried the ban in trenchant terms, stating in an opinion column that the "Muslim Ban Protecting Trump Profits Is [an] Impeachable Offense." It adds, "Three Muslim nations Trump exempted from his ban on Muslims have Americans’ blood on their hands but he profits by protecting the terrorists." The seven banned countries are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The Wall Street Journal quotes Indonesian authories as saying the ban would have precisely the opposite effect of fanning flames of anti-American sentiment. This is indeed what worries much of Asia and the Muslim world. The Indian Express, one of the largest English dailies in the subcontinent pointed to Saudi Arabia's resounding silence on the issue of the Muslim ban. "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," it argues.

Pakistan's Dawn newspaper quoted cricketer-turned-politican Imran Khan as turning the news to his advantage with a pitch to Pakistanis to focus on their own country's problems. "Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Sunday, while condemning the plight of Muslims prevented from entering the United States (US) under US President Donald Trump's immigration ban, expressed hope that the ban is extended to Pakistanis. 'I want to tell all Pakistanis today, I pray that Trump bans Pakistani visas so that we can focus on fixing our country,' Khan told a rally in Sahiwal."

A year ago somewhat presciently British Ambassador to USA, Peter Westmacott hopped off the protocol bandwagon to excoriate Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump for his anti-Muslim remarks and a pointed dig at the UK for 'allowing radicalized Muslims to make several areas no-go zones', a signature campaign to disallow Trump entry to the United Kingdom gathered steam with over half a million names.

During the campaign in the run-up to the elections, Donald Trump sparked a furore over his remark that Muslims should be banned from entering the United States. Writing in The Washington Post, Russell Moore said, "Anyone who cares an iota about religious liberty should denounce this reckless, demagogic rhetoric." He continues: "As an evangelical Christian, I could not disagree more strongly with Islam... It is not in spite of our gospel conviction, but precisely because of it, that we should stand for religious liberty for everyone."

The New York Times quoted former boxer Muhammad Ali as saying, “People recognize me for being a boxer and a man of truth... I wouldn’t be here to represent Islam if it was really like the terrorists make us look.” The paper argued on its opinion pages that Trump's plan was 'awful' and 'unconstitutional'. Writes Peter Spiro, "In the ordinary, non-immigration world of constitutional law, the Trump scheme would be blatantly unconstitutional, a clear violation of both equal protection and religious freedom."

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