Widespread protests challenge Trump’s anti-Muslim order

feb-2017-airport-pittsBy KAREN SCHRAUFNAGEL

Protests erupted throughout the United States and the world following President Trump’s stunning order that suspended entry into the U.S. by refugees and other travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and Africa. Thousands demonstrated at airports and federal courthouses. Chants included: “No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here!”

At least 10,000 rallied against the Muslim ban in New York City’s Battery Park on Jan. 29, while taxi drivers held a one-hour strike in solidarity. On the same day, massive crowds jammed Boston’s Copley Square—more than 15,000, according to the police. Over 15,000 marched in Minneapolis on Jan. 31. The protests have continued the momentum and spirit of the massive Jan. 21 Women’s Marches in Washington and hundreds of other cities.

The Trump administration’s anti-Muslim policies represent a significant escalation in the U.S. war on Islam. At the same time, these policies are logical extensions of the bipartisan assaults on the civil rights of Muslims in this country spanning nearly two decades, and always justified as important tools for fighting the “War on Terror.”

When a gunman opened fire inside the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Centre on Jan. 29, killing six worshippers and wounding many more, the White House and Fox News repeatedly characterized it as a terrorist attack by a Muslim terrorist, audaciously exploiting this massacre of Muslims to justify their escalating attack on Muslims. It was revealed quickly that the Muslim man from Morocco blamed for the attack by reactionaries was actually a witness to the massacre who had called the police.

The perpetrator of the Quebec attack, Alexandre Bissonnette, is a white nationalist who admires Trump, illustrating how individuals with prejudices are encouraged into action by powerful people using inflammatory rhetoric, magnified by repetition in the sensationalist capitalist media.

As the true story came out, the White House and Fox News continued to maintain their “alt” interpretation of events. Meanwhile, in the rest of the capitalist press, references to a “terrorist” attack quickly stopped and were replaced with “lone gunman” stories more consistent with the underlying narrative that recognizes violence as terrorism only if the perpetrator is Muslim.

Trump issued his edict against Muslims as an Executive Order on Jan. 27. Rudolph Giuliani explained on Fox News the next day that Trump had told him he wanted a “Muslim ban,” but he wanted to do it legally. So the administration hatched a plan: “And what we did was, we focused on, instead of religion, danger! The areas of the world that create danger for us, which is a factual basis, not a religious basis. Perfectly legal. Perfectly sensible. That’s what the ban is based on.”

Of course “danger,” unlike religion, is a subjective notion. And many see through this transparent rationale. Glenn Greenwald explained in a recent Intercept article: “The sole ostensible rationale for this ban—it is necessary to keep out Muslim extremists—collapses upon the most minimal scrutiny.

“The countries that have produced and supported the greatest number of anti-U.S. terrorists—Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, UAE—are excluded from the ban list because the tyrannical regimes that run those countries are close U.S. allies. Conversely, the countries that are included—Syria, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Iran, Sudan, and Yemen—have produced virtually no such terrorists; as the Cato Institute documented: ‘Foreigners from those seven nations have killed zero Americans in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil between 1975 and the end of 2015.’ Indeed, as of a 2015 study by the New America research center, deaths caused by terrorism from right-wing nationalists since 9/11 have significantly exceeded those from Muslim extremists.”

Democratic Party politicians, and some Republicans, also criticized the directive from the White House—often with surprising frankness. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) succinctly tweeted: “We bomb your country, creating a humanitarian nightmare, then lock you inside. That’s a horror movie, not a foreign policy.”

The Trump administration’s ban is a continuation of the Orwellian logic that has been a centerpiece of the War on Terror from the start. It is the same logic that justified invading Iraq when none of the 9/11 perpetrators were Iraqi, and that reclassified every male in a “combat zone” as an enemy combatant in order to artificially reduce the number of civilian casualties from U.S. drone strikes.

It is the same logic that creates programs like Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), tying funding for essential social services to cooperation with surveillance and entrapment of entire “suspect” communities. Yes, the ban is reprehensible, but within the logic of the War on Terror, it is also logical.

Socialist Action says we must stand together against Trump’s ban, and against Trump’s registry, but we must also stand together against the illogical logic of the entire War on Terror. We say no to marginalizing and criminalizing Muslims. Solidarity with Muslims and all oppressed people! Join us!

Photo: Stephanie Strasburg / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette