Exclusive interview: The majority of Americans...
The executive order, popularly referred to as the Muslim ban was challenged by several courts. Many lawyers, legal experts and Congressmen voiced their protest against it. However, the third version of the ban signed by President Trump on 24th September 2017 still prevents the citizens of the seven countries from traveling to America unless in exceptional circumstances. Its immediate effect was that 700 travellers were detained and up to 60,000 visas were provisionally revoked.
Findings by Haas Institute reveal that there are 15 federal measures and 194 state bills that directly target Muslims because of their religion, and they were mostly imposed after the September 11 attacks when immigration became a key national security issue in the United States.
A distinguished American lawyer believes the majority of Americans consistently condemn incitement of hatred and acts of violence and discrimination against the Muslims.
In an interview with Organisation for Defending Victims of Violence, Mona Khalil, an Affiliate of the Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict said the debate on the human impacts of the "Muslim ban" has mostly disappeared from the American media since the issuance of President Trump's Presidential Proclamation that was a modification of the executive order. Mona Khalil has 25 years of experience with the United Nations, Security Council and other international bodies and currently lectures at Harvard University, Columbia University and Georgetown University.
What follows is the text of ODVV's interview with Ms Khalil about the legal and human impacts of President Trump's ban on the nationals of seven Muslim majority countries and the debate about it in the U.S. and global media.
Q: Are the travel restrictions imposed by President Donald Trump on the citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries justifiable and constitutional? Two state appeal courts ruled against the president's decision. Do you think he will uphold and respect the rulings?
A: In his third attempt President Trump issued a Presidential Proclamation which entered into force on 18 October 2017. The Proclamation continues to affect travellers from Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Libya and Iran but drops Iraq and Sudan which had been listed in the prior Executive Orders.
Q: The common denominator of the citizens who are banned from entering the United States is their religion, i.e. they're Muslim. Even before coming to power, he had promised that he will impose a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States. Will Donald Trump's actions today complicate the future of U.S. relations with the Muslim world?
A: By adding targeted individuals from North Korea, Chad and Venezuela, the Administration appears to have thus far avoided serious challenge despite the appellate courts’ findings of religious discrimination and insufficient grounds to substantiate the allegations of national security threats. The Supreme Court has thus far viewed the constitutional questions arising from the Executive Orders and the ultimate Presidential Proclamation almost exclusively through the lens of executive discretion in light of the national security concerns outlined therein despite the absence of evidence that the individuals from the targeted countries pose such a threat and despite the President’s prior pronouncements regarding a “Muslim” ban.
Q: How much have the human aspects of the Executive Order 13769, popularly known as the Muslim ban, been discussed at the national level in the United States? While the mainstream media like Fox News take the discourse to a direction which is teaming up popular support against the Muslims, does the opposing narrative, which is recounting the rights of the dual citizens affected by the ban or the ordeal of families which are now torn apart have any chance of being discussed or making its way to the alternative media?
A: Despite intense coverage surrounding the Executive Orders, the issue has largely fallen off the radar since the issuance of the Presidential Proclamation. The most tragic story is that of the Syrian and other refugees who had already been cleared for entry after long and arduous procedures but ultimately denied entry due to the US President’s travel ban.
Q: A report by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's inspector general showed that the department was almost entirely unprepared for the ban to go into effect as it was not consulted by President Trump, and the chaos that happened at the U.S. airports shortly after the implementation of the ban was understandable. Many of the travellers and dual nationals whose travel documents were automatically nullified after the ban said they were treated harshly at the U.S. airports. What's your take on that?
A: The chaos and crisis that ensued after the entry into force of the first Executive Order was rather sad and scary but far greater was the immediate mobilization of human rights and immigration lawyers as well as the resounding protest by civil society and major media outlets to what was universally agreed to be a baseless and inhumane action. I like to recall the episode as an unequivocal affirmation of our common humanity, a vindication of U.S. and constitutional law and a confirmation of customary principles of international law.
Q: Amnesty International reported increased violence against Muslims, a rise in the number of hate crimes, a potential domino effect on refugee admissions across the world and criminalisation and de-humanisation of asylum-seekers as the most immediate outcomes of President Trump's ban. In short, he fomented Islamophobic sentiments with his decision. How do you think these can be undone, if at all?
A: The spike in hate crimes against Muslims, as well as other communities including the Sikh who were mistaken for Muslims, began well before the travel ban and possibly as early as the November 2016 election. The overwhelming majority of Americans including many U.S. Congressional leaders, however, have correctly and consistently condemned all acts of violence and all incitement of hatred and discrimination.
Q: Do you believe that the President of the United States has taken a discriminatory approach against Muslims in implementing the general national security policies? For example, in the case of the recent mass shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in which 17 people were killed, do you think the response by the U.S. government would have been the same, had the perpetrator been a Muslim or from a different ethnic group?
A: The targeted or intentionally indiscriminate killing of innocents is wrong and condemnable under any and all circumstances. Nonetheless, terrorist acts or other violent acts by Muslim individuals are too often tragically and consistently attributed to the entire race or religion of the perpetrator. Similar atrocities by other religious or ideological fanatics, including the mass slaughter of worshippers in a West Philly Baptist Church, young children in Sandy Hook or youthful campers in Norway are quickly and singly assigned to “a disturbed or troubled man”.
By: Kourosh Ziabari