New Ban, Same Islamophobia

BY: MICHAEL T. BARRY JR

A similar version of this story was originally published on The Eagle.

The Trump administration recently released a new, third travel ban, that will go into full effect one week from today. Explicitly targeting Muslim-majority nations and Muslim-majority nations alone, Trump’s previous two bans were met with criticism, protest and even rejection by courts across the nation. For their third ban, it appears the Trump administration has adopted a new strategy. Instead of banning Muslim majority nations alone, the new ban adds North Korea and Venezuela.

With this new strategy, the Trump administration can argue the ban is no longer a “Muslim ban,” but instead a geographically diverse safety measure, creating the illusion this third ban does not disproportionately impact Muslim people and nations. In reality, the third ban is just as Islamophobic as the first two and just as Islamophobic as the president who approved them.

We must not forget that Donald Trump is the same man who proclaimed, “I think Islam hates us.” He is the same man who questioned Barack Obama’s faith in an effort to disparage the former president. He is the same man who said he would consider closing mosques and creating a Muslim database. And he is the same man who said the Qur’an has a “very negative vibe.”

Trump has time and again employed Islamophobic rhetoric at a level unseen from any other American president. Therefore, why should we not expect his policies to follow suit? If Trump’s rhetoric, ideas and feelings are Islamophobic, then we must conclude his policies are as well. Or, at the very least, we must question his intentions. In this particular instance, the addition of North Korea and Venezuela to the travel ban is nothing more than a cover-up or ruse to hide the administration’s ongoing Islamophobic agenda.  

The addition of North Korea and Venezuela actually changes the travel ban very little. The new ban includes eight nations (six Muslim-majority and two non-Muslim majority). The Muslim-majority are Chad, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Iran and Somalia. The new additions, North Korea and Venezuela, are not.. Even with the addition of North Korea and Venezuela, the ban still targets Muslim nations and people by a ratio of three to one (163,700,209 of the potentially 221,168,239 people affected are from a Muslim majority nation). Even further, few North Koreans travel to the United States as is, and the Venezuela addition only addresses government officials or friends of government officials, limiting its reach even further. Meaning, these two additions have little effect and the ban still stands to hurt Muslims at a disproportionately large rate.

The timing of Trump’s North Korea addition is also suspicious. As Trump’s previous two travel bans have failed, tensions with North Korea have escalated. It would appear the Trump administration is attempting to capitalize on these tensions and Americans’ fear of war with North Korea to promote one of his central policies in the travel ban. One must question: why didn’t Trump include North Korea in the first or second ban? Or, why does it matter if he includes North Korea at all considering how few North Koreans enter the country in the first place? Regardless, the addition does not fundamentally change the concrete ramifications of the ban.

The third travel ban remains an Islamophobic, Muslim travel ban like the first and the second. The only difference is this ban is using North Korea and Venezuela to create the illusion that it is not. Hopefully, citizens and courts will see this ban for what it is: a discriminatory policy directed toward Muslims, and continue to fight its implementation. If not, American Muslims and Muslims throughout the world will face widespread pain and heartache.

Michael T. Barry Jr. is an award-winning filmmaker and doctoral student in modern American history at American University. His films “The Universal Soldier: Vietnam” and “Sincerity: From X to El-Shabazz” have screened at film festivals across the country. He has also contributed writings to outlets like Black Perspectives, The Gainesville Sun, TruthOut, and The Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Follow him on Twitter @MTBarryJr.