SHAFAQNA – The US supreme court has decided that parts of Donald Trump’s Muslim ban can take effect, lifting lower court injunctions on his executive order and noting that it would hear the case in October. Days earlier, Trump’s White House broke with decades of tradition by refusing to host a traditional dinner, an iftar, for Muslim Americans during the holy month of Ramadan.
While failing to host a dinner seems minor compared to establishing the law of the land, these two events are closely related – and bode terribly for Muslim Americans. Why? Because both actions chip away at the essential idea that Muslims are a legitimate presence in the United States.
Over the next several days, we will no doubt hear copious commentary on the supreme court’s opinion, with some legal scholars arguing that the court has not really sided with Trump because people from the six Muslim-majority countries listed in the executive order will still be allowed entry to the US if they can show that they have a “bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States”.
This means that if you are a student with a valid visa, or if you have family already in the country, or if you are “a lecturer invited to address an American audience”, you can still be granted admission to the US, at least until a final ruling is issued by the court after it hears arguments in the fall.
This clause will certainly allow many people to gain admission, but it does not alter the fundamental fact that people will be excluded from the US not for who they are but simply because of where they come from.
And what determines this geography of exclusion is not the threat of terrorism, since Trump’s own Department of Homeland Security has found that “country of citizenship is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity”.
In other words, a partial Muslim ban is still a Muslim ban, and in their muddled and confusing decision the supreme court has legitimized blanket discrimination against Muslims while trying to carve out oddly sized holes and various exceptions. The decision reads like the guilty conscience of a semi-racist bureaucrat.
The court’s opinion will, at least temporarily, enshrine a version of Islamophobia into practice. (And considering past performance, how Customs and Border Protection will enforce the order is also deeply worrying.)
In terms of our political culture, Trump has been doing the same since he “called for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on” in December 2015. During the election, Trump and his campaign courted votes from every major constituency in the country, even ones he had insulted, but never from Muslim Americans. In Trump’s universe, Muslim Americans don’t count.
This is not to say that Muslims are not acknowledged by Trump. They are. With much fanfare, Trump has announced bombing missions in the Muslim-majority countries of Syria and Yemen. He has danced with Saudi monarchs and touched their orbs. He has repeatedly called attention to his aim of keeping Muslims out of the US.
And in his official White House statements regarding the Muslim holy days of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr, he refers to “Muslims in America” but not to Muslim Americans. The difference is important. In Trump’s version, Muslims may live in America, but they are not American.
And now, the supreme court is temporarily abetting Trump’s position in its own way. We can’t let that stand. We must use all of our intelligence and resources to ensure that any version of a Muslim ban does not become the law of the land.
We must constantly remind our neighbors and colleagues that Muslims are a part of this country. And we must recognize that the fight over this ban is not only about Muslims but is also, if not primarily, about what kind of executive authority the president will have. A Muslim ban will mean more than losing a few visitors to this country. A Muslim ban could mean losing what we hold dear about our country.