U.S. Travel Ban Temporarily Halted Amid Global Outcry
A judge has temporarily halted the executive order issued by President Trump that banned citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.
Trump’s so-called “Muslim ban” will now be argued before the courts. Meanwhile, immigration and civil rights groups are encouraging those holding a visa to the United States to travel there immediately. Those who are already in the United States are advised not to leave the country.
The new American policy “is very alarming and shocking” says Dr. Ayman Halaseh, a human rights advocate and professor of international public law at Al-Isra University in Amman, Jordan. Halaseh’s work focuses on issues regarding migrant workers and refugees, of whom there are many in Jordan. Over a million Syrians live there now, and the country is also home to refugees from other Arab countries listed in Trump’s order. “I’m expecting that more refugees [here] will be deported back to their countries because they cannot now be resettled in the United States,” says Halaseh.
The presidential order, as originally implemented, affected visa and green-card holders Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The ban created immediate turmoil, as protesters rushed to airports to demonstrate against the order and lawyers showed up to offer their assistance.
The order affects an estimated 17,000 Arab and Iranian students enrolled at U.S. universities, and several thousand academics.
Iranian students are the single largest group affected by the ban. Two of the lawsuits challenging the ban that were filed in the United States involve an Iranian student and an Iranian scientist. Iran called the ban “insulting” and is the only targeted country so far to have taken reciprocal measures, banning Americans from traveling there.
A statement of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), a non-political association that fosters the study of the Middle East, maintained that: “These limitations on entry into the United States and enhanced screening mechanisms threaten the academic community’s ability to sustain critical engagement with colleagues from the affected countries.” The statement advises universities to offer increased legal and logistical support to international students and faculty members. It also advocates that universities continue admitting students and hiring faculty members from the seven countries listed in the ban.
Wheaton College, a liberal arts college in the U.S. state of Massachusetts, has announced it will offer scholarships to refugees from the seven banned countries. The University of Ottawa, in Canada, has offered to help students affected by the ban transfer there.
Thousands of academics from around the world signed an online pledge to boycott academic conferences in the United States that reads, in part: “Among those affected by the Order are academics and students who are unable to participate in conferences and the free communication of ideas. We the undersigned take action in solidarity with those affected by Trump’s Executive Order by pledging not to attend international conferences in the U.S. while the ban persists. We question the intellectual integrity of these spaces and the dialogues they are designed to encourage while Muslim colleagues are explicitly excluded from them.”
By February 4, the pledge had more than 6,000 signatures, but only a handful of the signatories hail from universities in the Arab world: two from Egypt; one from Saudi Arabia; one from the United Arab Emirates; two from Qatar; and five from Morocco.
It may be that professors in the Arab world are unaware of this petition, but in general the ban has been greeted in the region with a striking silence.
While Yemen and Sudan protested their inclusion on the list, there was no response from Somalia, Libya or the government of Bashar El Assad. Meanwhile the United Arab Emirates defended the United States’ right to impose restrictions and denied the measure was anti-Islam. Saudi Arabia and Egypt have been conspicuously silent. And Al Azhar, an institution of religious learning in Egypt that often weighs in when it feels Islam is being discriminated against in the West, has made no comment.
“The silence of Arab leaders is easily understood as a classic form of realpolitik,” writes Marc Lynch, a professor of political science at George Washington University in Washington, DC, who studies the Arab world. “They share Trump’s hostility towards Iran, focus on a very broadly defined Islamist menace, and have little concern for democracy or human rights.”
The president of the American University of Beirut, Fadlo Khuri, who has spoken out publicly on the matter, stating that “we find this action and its implications to be in conflict with the enduring values of liberty and justice for all, which the original framers of the U.S. constitution fought to protect and preserve.” Muslim immigrants and refugees are pursing the American dream, argued Khuri, who is Lebanese-American: “The exchange of ideas and results from visiting professors and students lies at the core of the advancement of knowledge and research.”