Thursday, February 02, 2017

Back to the blog world...in the Trump era of Muslim travel bans

by Salman Hameed

Hello folks. For various reasons (not the least of it - the depressing political climate here in the US), I had taken a break from posting on Irtiqa. The landscape of blogs have also changed substantially in the past couple of years. One of my initial goals here was to highlight and comment on stories related to science in Muslim societies, and those science and religion stories that I think would be of interest to the readers here. But now it has become much more easier just to share it on Facebook or other sites like that. However, I think there is still a difference between passive sharing versus commenting on the specifics in the article, even if it is the highlighting of only a couple of paragraphs. Plus, in the Trump era, we need to get as many voices out there as possible - no matter how insignificant (I learnt that from reading Horton Hears a Who! to my 3-year old. Come to think of it, most of my life lessons  come from Dr. Seuss).

It takes a while to get back into the rhythm of things and hope that the posts will become regular again. In the mean time, here is the journal Science about the impact of last week's travel ban in scientists from Iran and other countries:

Ehssan Nazockdast was planning to attend his sister’s wedding in Tehran in March. One hitch: The specialist on fluid dynamics at New York University in New York City is an Iranian citizen. That leaves him vulnerable under an executive order, signed by U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday, that calls for the rigorous vetting of applicants for U.S. visas from Iran and six other predominantly Muslim nations, and bars the entry of any citizen from those nations for 90 days while procedures for that vetting are put in place. Nazockdast has lived in the United States for nearly a decade, has a green card, and has two young daughters with a wife who is a U.S. citizen. But now that Nazockdast is branded with a scarlet letter, he dare not leave. “I’m living in a big prison called the United States of America,” he says.
Furthermore, it is not just the travel of immigrants in the US. It also isolates them. Their family members cannot travel to them either. This will have a tremendous long-term impact.
Scientists of all nationalities and religious persuasions are up in arms. An open letter signed by more than 7000 academics and counting, including 43 Nobel laureates warns that Trump’s order “significantly damages American leadership in higher education and research” and calls it “inhumane, ineffective, and un-American.” “We recognize the importance of a strong visa process to our nation’s security,” Mary Sue Coleman, president of the Association of American Universities in Washington, D.C., said in a statement yesterday. But the order, she says, “is already causing damage and should end as quickly as possible.”
...
Perhaps more Iranian academics will be hit by the order than any other nationality. The open letter notes that approximately 1500 students from Iran have received Ph.D.s from U.S. universities in the past 3 years. Hananeh Esmailbeigi, an Iranian-born biomedical engineer at the University of Illinois in Chicago (UIC), says that many UIC faculty and department heads are Iranian. “I joke that you would be OK knowing only Farsi on campus,” she says. 
Now, Esmailbeigi’s mood is bleak. The green card holder says she teaches 300 students a year about how to design medical devices. “Now, I’m flagged as being a threat to the country. It just doesn’t make sense.” Iran’s foreign ministry yesterday labeled the executive order “a great gift to extremists” and vowed to take reciprocal measures that may include suspending issuance of visas to U.S. citizens. 
Scientists from the other six countries are suffering too. Wael Al-Delaimy, an Iraqi-born physician and chronic disease epidemiologist at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), travels six times a year to U.S.- or UCSD-funded projects in Ecuador, Mozambique, Jordan, and India that address topics such as indoor air pollution and refugee mental health. A green card holder, Al-Delaimy says he is now afraid to leave the United States, which will hobble his work. He takes no solace from the fact that the executive order’s ban on Iraqis entering the United States is limited to 90 days. “I am fearful that this is just going to be extended and extended. That this is just a litmus test to see the reaction, and once people are complacent they go ahead and [a permanent ban] becomes OK.”
Folks. Things are going to get far worse before they get better. The ban is expected to be expanded to other countries. Here is a New York Times article from yesterday talking about the centrality of anti-Islam views in the Trump White House policy:
Mr. Trump was echoing a strain of anti-Islamic theorizing familiar to anyone who has been immersed in security and counterterrorism debates over the last 20 years. He has embraced a deeply suspicious view of Islam that several of his aides have promoted, notably retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, now his national security adviser, and Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s top strategist. 
This worldview borrows from the “clash of civilizations” thesis of the political scientist Samuel P. Huntington, and combines straightforward warnings about extremist violence with broad-brush critiques of Islam. It sometimes conflates terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State with largely nonviolent groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots and, at times, with the 1.7 billion Muslims around the world. In its more extreme forms, this view promotes conspiracies about government infiltration and the danger that Shariah, the legal code of Islam, may take over in the United States. 
Those espousing such views present Islam as an inherently hostile ideology whose adherents are enemies of Christianity and Judaism and seek to conquer nonbelievers either by violence or through a sort of stealthy brainwashing. 
The executive order on immigration that Mr. Trump signed on Friday might be viewed as the first major victory for this geopolitical school. And a second action, which would designate the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist political movement in the Middle East, as a terrorist organization, is now under discussion at the White House, administration officials say.

and here is Stephen Bannon himself:
Mr. Bannon has spoken passionately about the economic and security dangers of immigration and took the lead role in shaping the immigration order. In a 2014 talk to a meeting at the Vatican, he said the “Judeo-Christian West” is at war with Islam.
“There is a major war brewing, a war that’s already global,” he said. “Every day that we refuse to look at this as what it is, and the scale of it, and really the viciousness of it, will be a day where you will rue that we didn’t act.” Elsewhere, on his radio show for Breitbart News, Mr. Bannon said, “Islam is not a religion of peace — Islam is a religion of submission,” and he warned of Muslim influence in Europe: “To be brutally frank, Christianity is dying in Europe and Islam is on the rise.”
And here is an excellent article in Mother Jones: The Dark History of the White House Aides Who Crafted Trump's "Muslim Ban":
One of Bannon's guests on the show, Trump surrogate Roger Stone, warned of a future America "where hordes of Islamic madmen are raping, killing, pillaging, defecating in public fountains, harassing private citizens, elderly people—that's what's coming." 
Another frequent guest was Pamela Geller, the president of Stop Islamization of America, whom Bannon described as "one of the top world experts on radical Islam and Sharia law and Islamic supremacism." Geller told Bannon that George W. Bush's description of Islam as a "religion of peace" was something "we all deplore," that there had been an "infiltration" of the Obama administration by radical Muslims, and that former Central Intelligence Director John Brennan may have secretly converted to Islam. Bannon never pushed back against any of those unfounded claims. 
In other exchanges on the show, Bannon described the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a group that defends the rights of Muslims, as "a bunch of spin" and "a bunch of lies." He accused the mainstream media of "basically going along the lines of being Sharia-compliant on blasphemy laws." He warned of "Sharia courts taking over Texas" and said that he opened a Breitbart News bureau in London in order to combat "all these Sharia courts [that] were starting under British law." 
Sorry folks to leave you with these disturbing articles. But here we are...

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