The Muslim Ban?

Why would anyone use the phrase “Muslim Ban” to refer to Trump’s executive order on immigration? It’s a fair question.

Certainly there are plenty of media outlets that have deployed the term behind blunt political objectives. Nonetheless, I think it is a fair description for the motivation and intent behind the order, and I will continue to use it. Not exclusively, or on principle. I’ll stick to the consensus “travel ban” when making a more direct point. But I do think the stronger label is also apt.

Of course, plenty of conservative outlets have been crying foul at those who have characterized the executive order as a ban targeting Muslims. Breitbart, for one, lists this as their top argument in defense of the decision:

You will search the Executive Order in vain for mentions of Islam, or any other religion.

However, while this point might be a valid defense of the legality of the language, it does not absolve the president’s action of its clear discriminatory intent. This is a refugee ban that singles out Muslim-majority countries, delivered by a man who has promised to ban Muslims. Importantly, it is also a wildly uneven response, affecting tens of thousands of people without any clear measure of the problem it claims to solve.

Granted,

  1. There are many larger Muslim nations that are not on the list. But the fact that it is not a complete ban or a “total shutdown,” does not change its clear motivation as a policy targeting Muslims.
  2. The language of the order does not mention Islam. But it does reference religion, and the fact that the order only references a pre-existing list of “countries of concern” provides nothing more than rhetorical cover for its obvious purpose.

The genesis of the order is clear. Trump campaigned on a promise of banning Muslims and is now trying to gauge if there’s any legal way to implement it. Scrubbing the language does not change this. That point is especially significant considering that there is an expansion clause buried within the text of the executive order. Intention matters. If the new administration is testing the waters for future policy actions, it is important that the public response is clear and unequivocal.

The administration says this is only temporary. The administration says the goal is only to review and improve the vetting process. But given past statements and promises, it should be no surprise when they aren’t given the benefit of the doubt.

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