Trump’s Visa Ban is about anti-Muslim Bigotry, not Security

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Reuters is reporting that on Wednesday, Trump will announce a halt to the issuing of visas to citizens of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. If this report is correct, Trump will represent this step as being about security, but it is not. Of the 750,000 refugees admitted since 2001, hundreds of thousands of them from the Middle East, virtually no refugees have committed an act of terrorism on US soil (typically they are running away from the violent people). He will say that refugees and immigrants from these countries need to be better vetted, but refugees are already subjected to a rigorous 18-month vetting process.

This measure, if it is taken, is just more racial and religious exclusion, policies we have seen before in the long and rich history of American racism. The 3 million Muslim-Americans are in Trump’s sights.


By far the majority of terrorist acts and political violence in the United States is committed by white supremacists.

It would be really bad if we got more white supremacists from abroad through immigration, since they are a clear terrorist threat. The head of German intelligence recently warned that far right extremist groups in his country are hooking up with US gangs and planning attacks.

In fact, about a quarter of seats in the European Parliament are now held by far right parties. A far right party founded by ex-Nazis almost took over Austria last year. A far right party has been ruling Hungary. Marine LePen is credible as the next president of France, and she heads a far right party. Maybe Trump should stop visas for Europe until we figure out what is going on.

If the argument is that these seven countries are violent, then what about South Sudan, Ukraine, Colombia, Venezuela, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic? These countries are among the lowest ranked in the Global Peace Index. Want to know what the difference is? Religion. The seven Trump-designated countries are all Muslim-majority.

Iran isn’t even typically ranked all that high for violence. It is ranked as more stable than Thailand. Thailand isn’t on Trump’s list.

It should be remembered that there are hundreds of thousands of US citizens from the 7 countries being blacklisted, and part of what Trump is saying is that their relatives and friends cannot visit them. If the Reuters report is correct, he is taking a basic right, to see family, away from Americans. And of course it is sometimes difficult for these Americans to travel to the countries listed for political reasons or because of instability.

Take the 300,000 to 400,000 Iranian-Americans. Many are members of religious minorities– Jews, Armenian Christians, and Baha’is who fled Khomeini. But they often do still have family or friends back home. Large numbers of Shiite Muslims, the Iranian majority, in the United States are militantly secular. With the JCPOA nuclear deal, Iranian-Americans could have been important in establishing new trade and business ties with Iran. Iran has a GDP the size of Poland’s and a population nearly as large as Germany’s. It is a virtually untapped market, from which Trump is cutting American businesses off.

Or take the some 200,000 Iraqi-Americans. How many of them would even be refugees had it not been for the illegal war of aggression launched on them by the United States? Does the US owe Iraq nothing? And note that the government of Iraq is partnering with the US to fight ISIL. How do you think our Iraqi allies feel about being blackballed? How will the US contribute, as it pledged, to the rebuilding of Iraq after all the destruction its rampaging caused, if Iraqi businessmen cannot even come to New York?

The US is, like it or not, in competition with Iran for Iraq’s friendship and trade . Trump just helped push Iraq into the arms of Iran, Russia and China. And he enunciated yet another insult to Iraq, after having talked Saturday at the CIA about “taking their oil” and after having upset Iraqis with talk of moving the US embassy to Jerusalem (the east of which is viewed by Palestinians as their future capital and all of which is subject to final status negotiations).

Trump’s visa ban, if he does announce one, makes no logical sense. It does not increase US security. It is intended to begin the creation of a hierarchy, whereby Muslims are the low ethnicity on the totem pole in US law and may be freely discriminated against. (Muslims are not just a religious group, but intermarry enough so that they also form a set of ethnic groups). The political right is all about creating unfair hierarchies, branding some racial groups good and others inferior. In the Europe of the 1930s it was Jews and Blacks who were treated this way. Today it is Muslims (though the turn of Jews and Blacks may yet come, given the attitudes visible in Trump and his circle).

If Trump announces his invidious policy today, it is a day of ethnic hatred. It is a sad day. It is a day on which America harmed itself.

33 Responses

  1. Lets note we have been bombing these countries for years and he may accept this to mean this should be the extent of his national security apparatus. May he be thinking that this will allow him to downsize allll the other agencies who’s job it is to protect his oiled heartland, including the FBI, NSA, and his favorite CIA. Maybe the TSA, as well. He certainly doesn’t need any daily intelligence. He has got all the oil he needs from above. And he can balance his budget with weapons sales to his Saudi friends(?). And if that doesn’t work he an fire everyone and do a 180.

  2. typically they are running away from the violent people

    With the exception of Iran and possibly Sudan, most of the violence they are fleeing from is caused, directly or indirectly, by the United States!

    • And Saudi Arabia and Egypt aren’t on the list. How INTERESTING.

      Refugees already have an 18 month wait period? If you think that’s a while, you should see how long it takes for other visas to be processed from these countries!

  3. It’s pretty clear that discriminating against Muslims is a way of opening the gates towards more discrimination of other groups. Call it an ice-breaker. The REAL targets are journalists,intellectuals, artists and musicians, creative thinkers, progressives and liberals…and of course Blacks and Jews. Especially Jews. It’s happening again and really, really fast. Our democracy is dead and there will be a very nasty American version of a Reichstag Fire and Kristallnacht. This year. You’ll see.

    • First, they came for the Muslims, next they came for the Mexicans and Central Americans, next they came for the Jews, the Blacks would have been next , saved by the NFL.

    • You are correct. The Right has spent the last 4 years on a multi-pronged assault to reestablish the principle that we are not equal before the law.
      1. the enshrining of a “religious” right to discriminate in all matters
      2. the campaign for profile searches, from airports to stop & frisk
      3. Stand Your Ground laws establishing that a White man has a greater right to fear and shoot a Black man than vice versa
      4. Just about everything regarding Moslems.

      A victory in a single one of these fronts will be parlayed by legions of right-wing legal organizations into precedent for all of the other fronts.

  4. The question really is how many US citizens would actively oppose such a move. Would it provoke any significant demonstrations? An identifiable number are doubtless heartened by such announcements, they don’t know anything about the statistics and probably don’t want to, but it sounds to them like Trump has rolled up his sleeves and is tackling things and that makes them feel better. Their minds would simply go blank at any attempt to convey the information rehearsed here and if they were made to listen they could get angry, even violent. One need only consider Madonna the other day with her expletives and dreams of blowing up the White House.

    Yes, such policies and the attitudes that provoke them will drive nations to discard erstwhile ties with the US and look in other directions. Abandoning TTP will tend to realign traditional ties. Apparently the German Ambassador to the US’s last meeting with Jared Kushner ended with Kushner bluntly asking, ‘What can you do for us?’ Ironically, there further appears a possibility that China, which was not part of the proposed Asia Pacific trade deals, might move to fill the vacuum left by Trump walking away. Whether any of this is good or bad is perhaps less important than the clear fact of a mighty change in the offing.

    • So far, you’re right. The backlash to the Trump backlash will most likely first be aroused internationally rather than domestically

  5. That evidence is the basis of trustworthy belief is a concept alien to Trump’s understanding of the world.

    He has proved that time and time again.

  6. If the Trump maladministraton fully intends to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem this visa ban would be a prudent ban only if the ban included Saudi Arabia?

  7. Time for denial and amazement to cease. We have a madman as our president. One who only cares about getting validation on a daily basis. No matter what lies, cruelty, misinformation it requires. What would you do if you had hired this man to work at your company? You would say you made a mistake and fire him! Impeach !!!

  8. Interestingly the vast majority of middle east terrorists who actually committed violence in the US and killed over 3000 Americans were from Saudi-Arabia, but that country is apparently not on the list. The other 3 terrorists were from UAE, Egypt and Lebanon, also not on the list.

    • This ban is not against terrorism or Muslims. In line with US Middle East policy, he is engaging the windmill.

  9. Trump has managed to live 70 years without apparently learning anything about human relations, fairness, kindness, compassion, history, geography,science, logic, consequences. Does this show why so many business people seem interested only in profit for themselves and have no care for the rest of us or even the environment we all rely on?

    • Yet the people who voted for him were shown no evidence that he had learned any of those things, and they still considered him to be preferable to the modern world. What does this tell us about what they hoped to replace it with?

  10. This is sheer hatred for Muslims, and Trump supporters are mostly anti Muslim, or else they would have not voted for a man who showed strong racist tendencies. The Muslims nations who do business with this man, have hotels in their nations, and who continue to have business dealings with his family, should be ashamed. They put personal gain above any support for the fellow Muslims.

  11. The first U.S. law to ban an ethnic group was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which was in effect until 1943. In the 1850s, white people in the west often took it upon themselves to attack, murder, and drive out “the yellow peril”. Newspapers fanned the flames of the Sinophobia.
    The current President of the Philippines decided to make drug sellers and users the scapegoat. He’s encouraged the slaughter of thousands of suspected drug sellers and buyers. His constituents fear him, yet he remains very popular.

  12. Donald Trump seems to really believe the “alt facts” that he keeps repeating. If so, he is not a liar knowingly using false information to gain some political advantage; instead he genuinely believes what he says and meets Jasper’s three criteria for diagnosing delusional states:

    Delusions are ideas that match three criteria:
    — certainty (held with absolute conviction)
    — incorrigibility (not changeable by compelling counterargument or proof to the contrary)
    — impossibility or falsity of content (implausible, bizarre, or patently untrue)

    The answer may not be impeachment and removal but temporary suspension under Amendment 25 to the Constitution, which provides:
    (…) Section 4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President. (…)

    As Claudius says in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.” Or as we would say in today’s idiom:

    When important people start to show signs of insanity, you have to watch them closely.

  13. Wild card: mass shooting or terrorist attack. Either – both bound to happen under the tenure of The Orangutan Who Can Punch Buttons (afterwards OWCPB) – will be used as an opportunity for the OWCPB to declare martial law and crack down on, well, everything. Muslims included, but they’ll have company with anyone who looks slightly unAmerican (i.e., people of color).

    Things have already gotten quite ugly. They are only going to get much much worse.

  14. Barry Schaffner

    15 of 19 alleged al Qaeda terrorists involved in 9/11 attacks were from Saudi Arabia, 2 from United Arab Emirates and the remainder 1 a piece from Egypt, and Lebanon.

    • As with the State of Israel, the relationship of the U.S. with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as a term Obama liked to employ, is “sacrosanct” – due to the fact, of course, that KSA supplies 28% of America’s imported crude oil and has $10 trillion sunk in stateside foreign investments.

      For those reasons, the U.S. State Department has always walked on eggs when dealing with the Kingdom.

  15. its all about painting a picture that Muslims are dangerous. expect more restrictions to be placed on Muslims in the U.S.A.

    First you ban them from coming into the US.A., then you ban them from holding military positions, then you ban them from holding office. My parents saw something like this, it was the rise of the NAZIs.

    Canada accepted 25K Syrian refugees, mostly Muslim in 3 months. it has worked out fine. There isn’t any reason we can’t accept 3 million American Muslims as refugees. We don’t care about your religion as long as you love hockey. we don’t have many guns but we have a lot of medical health cards.

    • As a Canadian who now lives in the UK, your comment makes me proud that our country has taken care of these afflicted peoples and have welcomed them so nicely! I hope the US takes note and changes its ways.

  16. Besides Saudi Arabia not included, which isn’t a surprise, I’m surprised that he didn’t include Afghanistan and Pakistan (not that I’m complaining), considering the San Bernardino attackers were of Pakistani origin and the Florida nightclub attacker (regardless of the fact that it wasn’t a religious-political terrorist attack) was of Afghan origin, both events noted by Trump politically during his campaign.

    Maybe that would have been a too long a list of Muslim countries to ban or just a continuation of poor US foreign policy thinking, like including Iran, because of the reasons listed above by the professor.

  17. Trump’s visa ban regarding the citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, in addition to being overtly anti-Islamic, has also another message, namely waging a dangerous campaign against Iran. If the decision were based on the countries which are either violent or whose nationals have carried out terrorist attacks against America and the West, he would know that Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt and even Turkey have faced greater instability and terrorism during the past few year than Iran. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other “Persian Gulf allies” have been spreading an intolerant version of Islam, have funded hundreds of militant schools and mosques in various Islamic countries and in Europe, and have even supported militant Islamic groups that Trump allegedly wants to crush and eliminate. Various polls have shown that Iranians score highest in pro-American sentiments among all regional countries – I wonder how long that will last!

    Already, Taraneh Alidoosti, one of Iran’s leading actors says she’s staying away from the Oscars in protest over President Trump’s plans for a visa ban. The film she stars in, “The Salesman”, has been nominated in the best foreign film category, but she said: “Trump’s visa ban for Iranians is racist. Whether this will include a cultural event or not, I won’t attend the Academy Awards 2017 in protest.”

    In a recent article Professor Charles Kurzman argues that Trump’s decision “is a dramatic and misdirected overreaction to a relatively small-scale problem” as none of the 9/11 hijackers were from any of those seven countries. (link to

    According to Bloomberg, Trump’s team aims to test Russia’s alliance with Iran.(link to It is also reported that the aim of Trump’s suggestion to establish safe zones in Syria is to oust Iran and Hezbollah from Syria (link to

    In short, Trump’s decision has very little to do with security and a great deal to do with politics and anti-Islamic and especially anti-Iranian prejudice.

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