Why Trump’s Muslim Ban 3.0 Is So Dangerous

The new ban shows us what institutionalized Islamophobia looks like during the Trump era of the War on Terror.

Maha Hilal December 19, 2017

Then-President-elect Donald Trump looks on during a rally at the DeltaPlex Arena, December 9, 2016 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

This arti­cle was pro­duced in part­ner­ship with For­eign Pol­i­cy in Focus.

By positing Muslims as a threat to the safety and security of the United States — even when they're the victims of a terrorist attack — Trump builds support for the idea that restricting Muslim rights will always be the solution.

Two years ago this Decem­ber, Don­ald Trump issued his now infa­mous state­ment: Don­ald J. Trump is call­ing for a total and com­plete shut­down of Mus­lims enter­ing the Unit­ed States until our coun­try’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives can fig­ure out what the hell is going on.” 

Near­ly a year into his pres­i­den­cy, Trump has sought to put three dif­fer­ent Mus­lim bans into place, with the last now mak­ing its way through the courts. 

In a Decem­ber 4 rul­ing, the Supreme Court decid­ed to allow Mus­lim ban 3.0 to be imple­ment­ed while chal­lenges to its con­sti­tu­tion­al­i­ty make their way through the low­er courts. In this, the Supreme Court over­turned appel­late courts’ ear­li­er deci­sions to halt its imple­men­ta­tion dur­ing the appeal process. 

To be clear, this deci­sion was not based on the mer­its of the case or the ban’s con­sti­tu­tion­al­i­ty. Nonethe­less, for many Mus­lims, it indi­cates that insti­tu­tion­al­ized Islam­o­pho­bia isn’t going any­where any­time soon. In the con­text of a pres­i­dent and admin­is­tra­tion that has repeat­ed­ly stoked anti-Mus­lim sen­ti­ments, this lat­est act of state vio­lence is depress­ing­ly unsurprising.

Unlike ear­li­er ver­sions of the ban, which ini­tial­ly imposed three-month restric­tions on six or sev­en Mus­lim-major­i­ty coun­tries, ver­sion 3.0 indef­i­nite­ly tar­gets nation­als from eight coun­tries. Syr­i­an and Soma­li nation­als are being banned alto­geth­er, while nation­als from Iran, Libya, Yemen and Chad face a range of restric­tions and bar­ri­ers to entry. 

North Korea and Venezuela are also includ­ed in the lat­est ban, as a fig leaf to cov­er Trump’s expressed inten­tion to tar­get Mus­lims’ entry to the Unit­ed States in argu­ments before the courts.

In the case of the pre­vi­ous bans, the time lim­its meant that when they reached the Supreme Court, they were essen­tial­ly moot — no longer in effect. How­ev­er, because of Mus­lim ban 3.0’s indef­i­nite nature, it vir­tu­al­ly ensures that the court will even­tu­al­ly have to rule on the mer­its of the ban. Its next action may depend on what hap­pens in the 4th and 9th Cir­cuit courts, which are weigh­ing the con­sti­tu­tion­al­i­ty of the ban. 

Mean­while, the Supreme Court’s deci­sion to let the ban go for­ward will cer­tain­ly embold­en Trump and his base of sup­port­ers, who believe that that Mus­lims are essen­tial­ly ter­ror­ists until proven otherwise.

For instance, it took only hours after Akayed Ullah, a Mus­lim immi­grant from Bangladesh, attempt­ed to bomb New York’s Port Author­i­ty bus sta­tion before White House spokesper­son Sarah Huck­abee Sanders called for dra­mat­i­cal­ly tight­en­ing immi­gra­tion rules. The pres­i­den­t’s pol­i­cy calls for an end to chain migra­tion,” she said, which is what this indi­vid­ual came to the Unit­ed States through. And if his pol­i­cy had been in place, then that attack­er would not have been allowed to come in the country.”

And it was­n’t so long ago that Trump re-tweet­ed inflam­ma­to­ry anti-Mus­lim pro­pa­gan­da from the British right-wing group Britain First. When British Prime Min­is­ter There­sa May protest­ed those tweets, Trump respond­ed by ques­tion­ing her abil­i­ty to deal with extrem­ists. Trump bleat­ed that she should focus on the destruc­tive Rad­i­cal Islam­ic Ter­ror­ism that is tak­ing place with­in the Unit­ed King­dom. We are doing just fine!”

In short, Trump respond­ed by crim­i­nal­iz­ing the British Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ty. Huck­abee Sanders lat­er cred­it­ed the pres­i­dent with ele­vat­ing the con­ver­sa­tion” around Islam and ter­ror­ism, even while acknowl­edg­ing that videos of alleged Mus­lim vio­lence in the tweets may have been fake.

And a week ear­li­er, when ISIS killed over 300 Egyp­tians in a mosque bomb­ing in Sinai, Trump tweet­ed to height­en domes­tic fears of ter­ror­ism. We have to get TOUGHER AND SMARTER than ever before, and we will. Need the WALL, need the BAN!” he tweet­ed.

In oth­er words, he sought to posi­tion acts of ter­ror­ism by Mus­lims as proof of the entire group’s propen­si­ty to com­mit acts of vio­lence — even though all 300-plus vic­tims were Mus­lims as well, and even though Egypt (whose mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor Trump warm­ly wel­comed to the White House ear­li­er this year) isn’t even on the list of banned countries.

In each of these cas­es, the White House has demo­nized the glob­al Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ty to jus­ti­fy extreme mea­sures against them. By posit­ing Mus­lims as a threat to the safe­ty and secu­ri­ty of the Unit­ed States — even when they’re the vic­tims of a ter­ror­ist attack — Trump builds sup­port for the idea that restrict­ing Mus­lim rights will always be the solution. 

If the 4th and 9th Cir­cuit courts deem the ban uncon­sti­tu­tion­al, Trump will almost cer­tain­ly chal­lenge the rul­ing. In the mean­time, Mus­lims will con­tin­ue to face the chal­lenge of being at the fore­front of court deci­sions and the court of pub­lic opin­ion. What hap­pens next will define the course of the legal sys­tem when it comes to Mus­lims in the Trump era of the War on Terror.

Dr. Maha Hilals research and exper­tise is on Insti­tu­tion­al­ized Islam­o­pho­bia in the War on Ter­ror. She’s the co-direc­tor of the Jus­tice for Mus­lims Col­lec­tive, an orga­niz­er with Wit­ness Against Tor­ture, and a coun­cil mem­ber of School of the Amer­i­c­as Watch. Pre­vi­ous­ly, she was the inau­gur­al Michael Rat­ner fel­low at the Insti­tute for Pol­i­cy Studies.
Limited Time:

SUBSCRIBE TO IN THESE TIMES MAGAZINE FOR JUST $1 A MONTH