With President Trump’s signing of his executive order banning nationals from seven Muslim majority countries, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, from entering the US, he has done the unthinkable. This executive order discriminates against Muslims, indefinitely bans Syrian refugees from seeking asylum in this country from the horrors of the civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of their countrymen, and inhibits green card holders currently out of the country, whose status was properly vetted but who are now unable to re-enter the US. And to add to this dysfunction, the Visa Interview Waiver Program, that had in the past allowed people from 38 other countries, many of them our nation’s allies, must now renew their travel authorizations with a personal interview, which at best is unmanageable, and at its worst disrespectful of our allies. Is this really how we make America great again?
This country knows full well the horrors of terrorist attacks against our homeland: attacks against the twin towers, the Pentagon, and the deaths of all on board the hijacked United airplane that crashed in Pennsylvania — these will forever be memorialized in the American psyche. But I have to ask this question: why are not Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates listed as banned countries since they, too, are all Muslim majority countries? This is especially baffling since Wahhabism, the dominant Muslim theology of Saudi Arabia has been the primary incubator of global terrorism and has given rise to Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. It is also baffling since 16 of the 19 September 11th terrorists were Saudis. Baffling too is that Christianity in Saudi Arabia is highly discouraged and at last analysis, Christians in that country are clearly discouraged by the government to establish churches there.
Likewise, it is baffling that Egypt, a country not known for its guarantee of human rights and religious freedom, has been identified as ignoring internal terrorism, church burnings and bombings against the ancient Coptic Christian community. Several of the 9/11 attackers were from Egypt. And why not the United Arab Emirates, where two of the 9/11 attackers were from?
It is baffling that Pakistan is not included in the list of banned countries given that it is a harbinger of Al-Qaida operatives and harbored Osama bin Laden, eventually killed in that country by US seals. And it is hard to understand why Afghanistan is not listed as a banned country given that it is the homeland of Al-Qaida and where acts of violence, including the torture and murder of women and children is a common occurrence. In Afghanistan to be a Christian is to be considered as an infidel by Al-Qaida and a hunted minority.
This executive order gives credence to current recruitment propaganda generated by ISIS that the US is anti-Muslim and pro-Christian based on comments made by Donald Trump during his run-up to the presidential election.
This executive order places our 5,000 military personnel at risk serving in Iraq. Other service men and women are at risk serving in other countries given the anti-Muslim content of this order. It reads as if the US has condemned all Muslims as terrorists who cannot be trusted.
An immediate response to this executive order is that the Iranian and Iraqi governments have cancelled visas for all Americans. By the stroke of a pen, President Trump has put an end to over 14 years of ongoing inter-religious dialogue held in this country, Iran, and Iraq. This work, undertaken by clerics, academics and members of civil society, has been able to articulate a clear connectivity between Christianity, and Islam and the sharing of their core theological principles, especially challenging the world to recognize their commonalities and the ongoing embrace of a theology of peace, compassion, reconciliation and forgiveness that are the broad parameters of our shared Abrahamic roots.
Americans of conscience who hold to the core values of American democracy and our embrace of freedom of religion ought to condemn this executive order and write or call their elected representatives imploring them to right this wrong. They should also inquire as to why Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Afghanistan are not singled out as banned Muslim countries by the administration.
As a Christian, I stand with my Muslim brothers and sisters throughout the Muslim world and especially in the US who have been demeaned, disrespected and marginalized by this action. I would hope that other Christians would speak up and challenge this executive order. For what it’s worth I have already been in touch with my senators and congressman. Have you?
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