This Wednesday, several major news outlets received a draft of an upcoming executive order instituting a temporary ban on all refugees and on immigrants from some Muslim nations.
Many perceive the order as an amended version of the “Muslim ban” U.S. President Donald Trump proposed in 2015. Because the executive order includes exceptions for individuals who are “a minority religion” in their homeland, the immigration restrictions will inordinately fall on Muslims, who represent the religious majority in all of the affected countries.
"Identifying specific countries with Muslim majorities and carving out exceptions for minority religions flies in the face of the constitutional principle that bans the government from either favoring or discriminating against particular religions," said American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony Romero, CNN reported.
Trump signed the executive order on Friday, January 27.
The available draft of the president’s order suspends immigration from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, and Sudan for 30 days, The New York Times reported Wednesday. The order will also postpone all refugee admission and resettlement processes for 120 days. For those fleeing Syria, however, the refugee ban will extend indefinitely.
Image Source: Syrian Refugee Camp, Karkosik Erbil. Photo by Mustafa Khayat, Flickr Creative Commons: http://bit.ly/2jyrjCH.
A variety of faith communities were quick to condemn the leaked order. Rabbi Jonah Pesner of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism wrote in a statement Wednesday,
“The expected executive order defies the best American tradition of being a place of refuge for those fleeing persecution. As Jews, we recognize the danger in any action that singles out people based on their religious beliefs. If the order is issued as anticipated, it is deeply troubling, rooted in exclusion and discrimination, and echoes the most shameful parts of our history.”
The Secular Coalition for America shared a similar sentiment. “It seems transparently obvious that President Trump’s executive order is an attempt to make good on his discriminatory campaign promise to ban Muslims from entering the United States under the guise of protecting national security,” said executive director Larry Decker. “Now more than ever, Americans of every faith and none must stand together to protect the Constitution and the principles of religious freedom our country was founded on.”
For Imam Omar Suleiman of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research, the order is a reminder of how critical a united response of resistance will be in the face of new policies. “[Trump] is trying to overwhelm us and he cannot be allowed to succeed,” Suleiman told Religion News Service. “Whatever you can get involved with and push back on, do so. He’s working fast, we need to work furiously.”
He added, “Please keep all of the people and organizations that will be affected in your prayers.”
Image Source: Afghan Refugee. Photo by DVIDSHUB, Flickr Creative Commons: http://bit.ly/2kCL35w
Not all religious leaders joined the interfaith condemnation of the order. Rev. Franklin Graham, an evangelical pastor who was an outspoken supporter of Trump during his campaign, welcomed the bans. When The Huffington Post asked Graham whether indefinitely turning away Syrian refugees from the United States conflicted with the espoused values of his Christian relief organization, Samaritan’s Purse, Graham responded that welcoming refugees was not “a Bible issue.”
“We want to love people, we want to be kind to people, we want to be considerate, but we have a country and a country should have order and there are laws that relate to immigration and I think we should follow those laws,” Graham said.
In a 2015 public Facebook post, Graham advocated a similar position to that of Trump’s “Muslim ban.” “We are under attack by Muslims at home and abroad. We should stop all immigration of Muslims to the U.S. until this threat with Islam has been settled,” Graham wrote. “Every Muslim that comes into this country has the potential to be radicalized.”
Graham’s support for Trump is not aberrant among his evangelical audience. According to a Pew Research Center analysis of early exit polls, 81 percent of white, self-identified “born-again” Christians voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. However, a number of evangelical Christian leaders have spoken out against widespread Christian support for Trump and his immigration and refugee policies.
In the progressive evangelical magazine Sojourners, Stephen Mattson highlighted the contrast between the lyrics of a popular Christian worship song and the reality of Americans’ attitudes toward refugees.
“American Christians—particularly white evangelicals—continue to sing the words: ‘Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders…’ but fail to realize the shameful irony that they’re largely responsible for refusing shelter and opportunity to some of the world’s most helpless and oppressed people,” Mattson said.
“In America, it appears that the sole purpose of Christianity is to selfishly protect people’s own self-interests instead of sacrificially serving others.”
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports that the world is currently experiencing the “highest levels of displacement on record.” 65.3 million people across the globe have been forced from their home—10 million of which are currently “stateless,” without any nationality or access to healthcare and employment.
53 percent of the world’s refugees came from Somalia, Syria, and Afghanistan—two of which are part of Trump’s new ban. More than half of the world’s refugees are children.
--by Caroline Matas
Image Source: Kabul refugee. Photo by Resolute Support Media, Flickr Creative Commons.