Are We Still That Nation? The #MuslimBan

Do you remember 9-11? Of course. Extremists who claimed to be acting as Muslims committed a senseless act of terror. Thousands died. Do you recall what President Bush said about Muslims days afterward?

“The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam.  That’s not what Islam is all about.  Islam is peace.  These terrorists don’t represent peace.  They represent evil and war.”

When we think of Islam we think of a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world.  Billions of people find comfort and solace and peace.  And that’s made brothers and sisters out of every race — out of every race.

America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country.  Muslims are doctors, lawyers, law professors, members of the military, entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, moms and dads.  And they need to be treated with respect.  In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect.

This is what leaders do. The react with dignity restraint and compassion.

Last  Friday evening President Trump signed another in a series of far reaching and xenophobic executive orders. He titled this one: EXECUTIVE ORDER: PROTECTING THE NATION FROM FOREIGN TERRORIST ENTRY INTO THE UNITED STATES

Make no mistake it doesn’t do that. In fact it does the opposite, while betraying the most fundamental values we hold as Americans

The Order states:

“….the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred ….the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own….,”

…and then commences to do that very thing as official policy of our country. Three of the executive orders on so-called “border security” do a lot of things that I find really troubling, but I want to just discuss a single issue: it discriminates against Muslims. The executive order “suspends new refugee admissions for 120 days, and blocks travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries — Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia — for 90 days. Syrian refugees are banned indefinitely.” http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/01/31/512678699/trumps-immigration-order-is-not-a-ban-on-muslims-homeland-security-chief-says  These are all Muslim-majority countries, so clearly the impact will be on Muslims. Then to make its intent even clearer it creates an exception for those who are religious minorities from those countries, a thinly veiled exception for Christians.

I have personally represented Christian asylum seekers for years, and advocated for their rights. I have gone to Immigration court for Iranian, Eritrean, Egyptian, Pakistani and Turkish religious asylum applicants.  I know what harm Christians fear in places without freedom of religion. So with that in mind, please know I absolutely OPPOSE a policy of giving Christians preference in refugee admissions. We should continue to follow international law and provide refuge for those fleeing violence and persecution without discrimination.

I was once asked what motivated me to help persecuted Christians. I replied, my motivation wasn’t their faith it was mine. As a Christian I’m interested in welcoming strangers, and that has and will continue to include Muslims, and atheists for that matter.

This preference for Christian refugees is opposed by many Christian leaders because of its discriminatory purpose. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/29/us/christian-leaders-denounce-trumps-plan-to-favor-christian-immigrants.html

The discriminatory purpose of this order has been admitted by certain advisors to the administration. According to the Atlantic:

His close adviser, Rudy Giuliani, told Fox News in a live interview that the executive order Trump just signed sprang from a committee Giuliani formed for the specific purpose of constructing a Muslim ban in a way that would pass legal muster! https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/01/what-conservatives-get-wrong-about-the-executive-order/514940/

While the ban is on its face temporary, the head of Homeland Security, Kelly “said for the first time that the some of the restrictions that caused confusion and sparked protests over the weekend could be extended well into the future. ‘Some of those countries that are currently on the list may not be taken off the list anytime soon,” he said.’ “ http://www.latimes.com/politics/washington/la-na-trailguide-updates-1485885194-htmlstory.html

Finally, this executive order makes us less safe. A large group of foreign service professionals have pointed out that bans like this play into the ISIS narrative that the United States is anti-Muslim.

We as a country have welcomed refugees in the past. A few months ago, I was giving a talk, and someone asked me, ‘We have all these people. They are a different religion. They don’t speak English and they have no money. What do we do about that.’ I replied, “If you drive a few miles from here you’ll see miles of Vietnamese restaurants and grocery stores and everything you just said applied to them. Our embrace of hundreds of thousands of Southeast Asians in the aftermath of the Viet Nam War is a great tribute to what our values are as a country.  We are still that nation, aren’t we?