Trump’s Travel Ban threatens to marginalise Islam

Arguably the most controversial action of the Donald trump presidency is the decision to attempt to implement a travel ban which sees restrictions on ‘immigration’ from seven mostly Muslim countries. The travel ban saw passport holders from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen stopped at airports and detained even when they were already in the air.

A three-month ban has also been imposed on refugees from these seven countries, with Syrian refugees proposed to be banned indefinitely. Trump claims that this would ‘keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the US’. Although the decision is being contested and the federal court issued a temporary injunction to halt the nationwide implementation of the ban, it has brought to the frontline of American politics issues of racial and religious division with demonstrators protesting, both for and against them.

Controversy surrounding the travel ban dates back to within the first seven days of the Trump presidency. It was then on 27th January that the President signed the executive order which put a temporary ban on citizens from the seven Muslim countries. This inevitably created protests nationwide where the public came out in force to oppose the travel ban. The next day a federal judge in New York blocked a section of the order, stating that authorities could not remove the individuals that had arrived in the United States after the order had been issued. This was reiterated by a federal judge in Massachusetts who ordered that those who arrived legally from the seven countries subject to Trump’s order, could not be detained or removed by the government. Trump defended his decision stating that:

“This is not about religion, it is about terror and keeping our country safe”.

The President then created more dispute and controversy by firing his Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, when she would not defend his travel ban. Whist this was inevitable, being a holdover from the Obama administration and clearly going against the President, it was the manner in which she was dismissed that caused issue. In the statement released by The White House it stated that she ‘had betrayed the Department of Justice’, which seems particularly strong and uncalled for as she had previously spent 3 years working in the Department. This dismissal highlights that there will no ‘niceties’ with Trump, and that he will seemingly continue to marginalise anyone that he feels goes against his views on ‘making America great again’. Consequently, on 2nd February the government backtracked on their initial claim that the executive order wouldn’t be changing, and eased the restrictions for legal permanent residents (green card holders) who were initially affected by the executive order. The following day, a US District Court Judge blocked the ban nationwide, signifying that the State Department would reverse the initial cancellation of visas which had been revoked after the executive order took place. Two days later the US government appealed to the court to resume the ban, however this was rejected.

As of 6th March, Trump signed a revised order of the travel ban. The new order has a 90-day ban on six of the countries but Iraq has been removed from the banned list, as it’s believed it’s government has boosted visa screening and data sharing. Refugees who have already been approved by the State Department can enter the US and the indefinite ban on all Syrian refugees has been lifted. The new order also does not give priority to religious minorities, unlike the previous one. This order is set to take effect on 16th March in hope that this notice will help avoid chaotic scenes which occurred after the first order was announced.

When delving further into the coverage of the travel ban, it can be seen that the Mainstream media are too heavily focused on their political alignment. It is clear to see that Fox news is completely pro Trump, with headlines calling other mainstream media ‘hysterical’ and claiming that ‘America likes Trump’s agenda’. Additionally, they have made statements such as ‘The country needs Trump to succeed’ which is clearly simply an opinion from the journalist. Fox articles also use statistics which could be seen to encourage marginalisation. For example, they quote a poll which indicates that 48% of the American nation ‘approve of suspending immigration from terror prone regions even if it means turning away refugees’. This differs to the CNN coverage who are against Trump and his views. Their headlines go against The President by saying how he ‘misleads reporters’ and ‘lied to anchors about immigration to gain positive press’. Their articles also often go against Trump’s claims, for example, they highlight that there was “no evidence that any alien from any of the seven Muslim countries perpetrated a terrorist attack in the US”.

It has however, become increasingly difficult for the mainstream media to report on topics relating to Trump, especially if they pose a threat to him. Although it has always been present, ‘fake news’ has become something of a catchphrase for Trump, who deems everything that goes against his views as fake or untrue, which can be seen in the video below. As the travel ban was part of his mandate, and evidently this is what people voted for, it means that in turn the fan base will believe what he says and won’t care about the oppositions views. This could lead to even more division in a country that is already politically divided. Difficulties for some of the media also arose when Trump barred several news organisations from an off-camera briefing, including CNN, The New York Times and the BBC. This was due to his beliefs that ‘the media was the enemy of the American people’ however it only included those of the media which could be seen to go against his views.

The struggle that journalists face in their reportage has been apparent since 9/11 and the middle eastern wars, with the strong innate views being more evident since these events. It could be seen that Trump is playing on the public’s fear and using it in a wave of pluralism. Whilst Trump could be seen to be the modern example of ‘Islamophobia’, there’s evidence to suggest that it is deeply, and historically, ingrained in American society. Taking into account 9/11, the public’s fear on Islamic terrorists continues to be apparent in their present-day lives. Trump’s travel ban can actually be seen to reflect a US immigration policy that was active until the mid 20th century. The Naturalization Act of 1790 drastically restricted the ability of Muslims becoming citizens, with citizenship only being for ‘any alien, being a free white person’. It could be deemed that Trump is simply revisiting this chapter in America’s ‘anti-muslim’ history, just more openly than any other politician.

The travel ban has also been controversially reported as being similar to an order Obama put through. In 2011, Obama banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months but there are also many differences. Firstly, it could be said that Obama responded to a threat where two Iraqi refugees had been implicated in bomb-making in Iraq, whereas Trump issued his executive order when there was no specific threat that triggered it. Obama’s ban could also be seen to not prevent all citizens of that country, including green-card holders whereas Trump has tried to be more sweeping, even though officials have been seen to pull back from the permanent barring of US residents. The further marginalization of Muslims and Islam could be seen in the juxtaposition of comments made by both Obama and Trump on terrorism, with Obama often referring to it as ‘violent extremism’ and Trump ‘Islamic terrorism’. Trump brings faith and religion straight to the forefront and therefore puts Islam into the metaphoric crosshair of the public.

The graph below shows that interest in Islamic terrorism in the United States is on average slowly increasing, with it spiking at certain points. The main points of interest are in relation to terrorist attacks, for example, interest peaked from 12th-18th June which was when the Orlando nightclub shootings took place.

With mainstream media struggling in their reportage, potentially due to their need to try and stay impartial, the rise of blogs and user generated content can be seen as a positive way to give the public more insight into the people’s views. The use of blogs can be seen to help portray views which have less bias and political agendas than the mainstream media. The user generated content can however, be seen as a threat to journalism, with it allowing people to offer their opinions without censorships from stakeholders. For example, one blog by ‘The Imaginative Conservative’ explains that, whilst he does not like Trump, he believes the hysteria the mainstream media have created is idiotic and self-defeating. He believes how the media will simply feed the doubt the public already have about their trustworthiness with hysterical headlines which will not get them anywhere. Consequently, it could be said that an increasing number of people will believe Trump’s constant assertions that the mainstream media are being used by the declining left to con the public. This opinion is one that is rarely seen through mainstream media due to the need to be more impartial and politically correct. Whilst Fox do lean towards being pro Trump, there is still an awareness in their reporting where the opinions can’t be so strongly portrayed.

The recent travel ban could also create a separation between America and other countries, as people may be less inclined to travel to America. For example, a study by Hopper shows that flight searches have declined by 17% in the first weeks of Trump’s presidency, with the majority of countries showing a drop in interest. This was also reiterated by World Travel & Tourism who reported that flight inquiries from Europe to the US had been down by 30%. Whilst this could be due to other factors, primarily the overall global dislike of Trump, but it is hard to see any other short-term significant events that could be related. It may also result in countries that have been subject to the travel ban being able to make it hard for US businesses. These countries can put import fees on U.S goods, boycott goods and services made by U.S- based companies and ultimately, can refuse to admit U.S citizens into their countries. This in turn creates more marginalized people and defeats the object of a global outlook. These could all be extreme consequences of a travel ban that statistics appear to show is unnecessary. For example, in the chart below, it shows how terrorism-related cases involving jihadist terrorism in the US since 9/11 are very much a domestic issue, as much as international.

Marginalizing migrants from the seven countries may also have an impact on Trump’s plans to deal with issues such as the Syrian civil war, the fight against the Islamic State Group and, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The travel ban being so focused on marginalizing Muslim countries means that it can only incite aggression and hatred for being treated in this way. The UK’s home secretary even described the ban as a ‘potential propaganda opportunity’ for the Islamic State. Internationally, the travel ban hasn’t been well received either. Protests have flooded the streets of the UK, Berlin, Paris, Rome, Vienna, Geneva and Amsterdam all striving for equality. These protests can be seen through social media in the Storify below. Meanwhile, the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, didn’t comment on the exact travel ban, but said that, ‘We recognize that it is vital every nation is able to control who comes across it’s borders’. A further case study to show the marginalization created by the travel ban can be seen with San Diego, which is a city that had been primarily affected by the order. It is home to a large Iraqi community, both Christian and Muslim, and so the order would have hindered the ability of allowing their relatives and friends to come to the country.

The travel ban can also be compared to the ‘wall’ that Trump plans to build between the US and Mexico. On 25th January, two days before the travel ban order was signed, Trump signed an executive order to begin building a wall between the two countries. The similarities can be seen as ultimately, this is again being used to marginalize the minority, but instead of against muslims, against Hispanics. Having a president so open about his thoughts towards Islam and Mexico, creates marginalization from not just him, but the public too. It could be said that racism was being battled and that people were afraid to be in public, but now, if a President acts in this way by creating ‘walls’ and ‘travel bans’ it could be considered that the public will believe they can act in this manner too.

Ultimately, reporting on topics such as the travel ban is difficult for the media and journalists as the issue is one that needs to be held tentatively and sensitively in their reporting. Giving Trump airtime will play into his hands, as giving him added publicity is giving more oxygen to views which might incite hatred or divide the public. However, regardless of the difficulty, the main issue that arises is when the reportage has different agendas. Journalists should try to stay away from bias and regardless of their political agenda should remain impartial and independent to further improve news reporting.

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