Why Trump's "Muslim Ban" Makes Us Less Safe, Not More

By: Tarig Ali Bakheet

February 27, 2017

Responding to: Immigration Executive Order and National Security

Why Trump's "Muslim Ban" Makes Us Less Safe, Not More President Trump’s attempt to ban nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States has led to global outrage and a fierce debate on the extent the country should go to maintain its security.

Of course, the United States, like any country, has the undisputed sovereign right to secure its borders and defend itself from those planning on committing terrorist attacks on its soil. But in the case of Trump’s executive order, now colloquially known as the "Muslim Ban," it remains doubtful the ban would help achieve either of those goals.

Certainly, that’s a view supported by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals when it ruled unanimously against reinstating the ban. The judges simply found no compelling evidence to justify the ban on security grounds.

It should also be noted that the current vetting process for entry into the United States is already extremely strict—particularly for refugees. The vetting process for refugees could take anywhere from 18 months to up to three years. Furthermore, the UNHCR refers under 1 percent of refugees for resettlement in a third country like the United States. Those hailing from countries with high terrorist activity and conflict zones, such as Iraq and Syria, are subjected to additional vetting. In fact, applicants from such regions are vetted so stringently that according to the Department of Homeland Security, in 2015 the United States only took in about 10 percent of the Syrian applicants referred by the UN.

So, if the ban’s impact on security is questionable at best, what are its more likely effects on U.S. national security and self-interest?

Well for one, in the words of the British Home Secretary Amber Rudd, the ban would constitute a huge "propaganda opportunity" for Daesh—and for good reason. The foundation of extremist recruitment efforts lie in convincing Muslims that the West sees them as enemies—not merely those Muslims that have taken up arms in Syria or who perpetrate acts of terrorism, but all Muslims. That claim can now be made with unprecedented confidence and vigor by extremists working to radicalize susceptible potential recruits, whether in the Islamic world or those within Western countries.

It would also be unspeakably tragic for those escaping the clutches of Daesh’s self-proclaimed Islamic State to be denied entry into the very country the terrorist group sees as its antithesis. Nothing would grant greater legitimacy to Daesh’s claims of being the true home of Muslims.

Furthermore, given the outcry from the international community, not least from predominately Islamic countries, any ban could have the effect of souring international relations. That could potentially undermine the much-needed multilateral cooperation required to address the threat of terrorism and extremism, as well as the Syrian refugee crisis and civil war—all issues that directly or indirectly affect U.S. national security and wider interests.

Indeed, the proposed ban, whilst purportedly focused on domestic national security concerns, diverts from the common ethical standards the international community is expected to uphold. Such a move indicates a shift away from the spirit of multilateral cooperation and toward a narrower, short-sighted definition of national self-interest.

Greater global cooperation was also recently called for by UN Security Council members when they requested stronger strategic partnership between the UN and OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation), the 57-nation intergovernmental body representing the Islamic world—particularly “given the magnitude and complexity of global challenges."

In an increasingly fractured world, compromising such partnerships is not something the world can afford. The risk of them being undermined and of Daesh and their ilk using the "Muslim ban" as an unprecedented propaganda opportunity should leave us in no doubt that banning refugees and closing borders makes us less safe, not more.

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