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This is the face of selective, lily-livered hate.
Donald Trump holds it in his heart, but he manufactures it too, masking state-sanctioned religious persecution as a national security endeavour – all to stoke the “us and them” hysteria that drove his election campaign.
As Trump severed the torch-bearing arm from the Statue of Liberty and the US went dark overnight Friday, American airport arrival halls and departure lounges around the world became settings for heartbreak, frustration and panic.
Accounts of the arrival at New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport of Hameed Khalid Daeweesh, an Iraqi, read like a bad Hollywood movie – despite working for the US in Iraq for a decade, for which he was targeted twice, Hameed was detained but his wife and children were allowed in; his lawyer was not allowed to see him; and when the lawyer asked who did he need to contact, he was told by a border agent: “call Mr Trump.”
Seyed Soheil Saeedi Saravi, by all accounts a brilliant young scientist from Iran, was due to travel to Boston to take up a fellowship to study cardiovascular medicine at Harvard – but his and his wife’s visas were suspended indefinitely.
A Syrian refugee family of six, who have been living in a Turkish refugee camp since fleeing the living hell of the Syrian civil war in 2014, had been granted visas and were to arrive in Cleveland on Tuesday – their travel was cancelled.
In Cairo, a group of young Arabs – five Iraqis, one Yemeni – all with valid immigration papers, were about to boars an EgyptAir flight to New York when they were told they could not board the aircraft.
In Istanbul, security officers boarded an aircraft that was set for takeoff to the US and removed a young Iranian woman and her family.
Trump’s sinister choice of blacklisted countries
The new President is cravenly political in the countries he decided to put on a refugee and migrant and blacklist. And his inclusions and exclusions doesn’t make sense.
Trump claims to be motivated by the horrific September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, but the countries of which the 19 aircraft hijackers were citizens are not on the list – most came from Saudi Arabia and the rest from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Lebanon.
Also absurdly absent are Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan and Egypt – all of them hotbeds of terror. In excluding them, Trump is grovelling to their autocratic leaders, not making a gesture to their people.
But there’s something a bit more sinister in his choice of targets.
In the 40 years to 2015, not a single American was killed on US soil by citizens from any of the seven countries targeted – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, according to research by the conservative-leaning Cato Institute.
But the same research shows that in the same period nearly 3000 Americans were killed by citizens of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Turkey — most the were victims of the 9/11 attacks.
And oops, wouldn’t you know it, Trump has multi-million business operations in all those countries.
In 2015, he registered eight hotel-related companies in Saudi Arabia, according to The Washington Post; in Turkey, two luxury towers in Istanbul are licensed to use his name; in Egypt, he has two companies; and in UAE, he has naming and management deals for two golf courses.
Trump’s insistence that immigrant vetting must be “extreme” deliberately misrepresents the previous regime as something of a cakewalk.
It was extreme and demeaning for a good number of Muslims, especially for refugees whose lives and connections were picked over for as long three years by the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the Department of Defense, the State Department and the National Counterterrorism Centre, and various other US intelligence agencies.
And he lies about the fate of Christians seeking entry to the US. “If you were a Muslim you could come in, but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible,” he said in a TV interview on Thursday. “I thought it was very, very unfair. So we are going to help them.”
But given that the Middle East is overwhelmingly Muslim, Christians have a far better chance of being accepted by the US. In 2016, Christians and Muslims were let in similar numbers – 37,521 Christians and 38,901 Muslims, according to the Pew Research Centre.
And in singling out the plight of Christians as the victims of attacks by Islamic State, Trump seemingly is oblivious to, or just choosing to ignore, the fact that IS has murdered thousands of Muslims around the world.
Trump’s recent predecessors, Barack Obama and before him George W Bush, consistently refused to disparage all Muslims for the terrorism by a few who have perverted the religion. That Trump appears to be enjoying himself is not surprising, given that the man he has appointed as his national security adviser argues that Islam, not terrorism, is a cancer.
No surprise then that this rush of blood to Trump’s head is being badly received – in the Muslim world and by those who are experts in international relations and other fields.
David Miliband, a former British foreign secretary and head of the International Rescue Committee, decried Trump’s orders as “a repudiation of fundamental American values, an abandonment of the US’ role as a humanitarian leader and, far from protecting the country from extremism, a propaganda gift to those who would plot harm to America.”
“I think this is going to alienate the whole Muslim world,” Mouwafak al-Rubaie, a lawmaker and former Iraqi national security adviser, told The New York Times.
Ryan Crocker, a former US ambassador who served in five Muslim countries under various administrations, took exception to the Trump declarations on several counts.
“This is a core identity of ours that we are repudiating in a very callous fashion. What do we do — get a new inscription on the Statue of Liberty? The Islamic State says it is leading the war against the US,” he said. “Now it only has to pump out our press releases to prove that.”
He was especially indignant on the plight of the thousands of Iraqis and Afghans who had risked their lives by working with the Americans after their countries were invaded by US-led coalitions – and of the likely reluctance of foreigners to work for the US in future conflict zones.
“We are effectively saying to past, current and potential future interpreters, that we want them to work with us and risk their lives in the field — confident in the knowledge that they will be hung out to dry.”
A reality that Trump ignores, and which all the high IQ he boasts of in his cabinet are allowing him to get away with, is this: the chance of an American being killed by a refugee is one in 3.64 billion, infinitely greater than being struck by lightening not once, but twice.
The story Donald Trump’s Muslim ban excludes countries in which he has business ties first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.