Mythbusting the “Muslim Ban”

A lot has been said about Trump’s executive order regarding travel, referred to as the “Muslim Ban” by major news outlets and most people discussing the issue. Based on trending reports, one would believe that over the past weeks Trump has twirled an evil mustache while banning religions and signing executive orders like they’re Mickey Mouse autographs. In light of all the emotionally charged headlines and cultural uproar, I decided to investigate exactly what this course of events has entailed. A cursory examination of the facts dispels many of the myths used to sensationalize this story.

The first misconception comes from the commonly used terminology. I’ve heard it argued that “Muslim ban” is just shorthand, but this is quite the deceptive explanation because in this case the shorthand is a provocative and attention grabbing phrase that functions as a kind of emotional hijacking. It’s worked quite well, garnering a good deal of outrage and attention. However, a more accurate term would be that of a travel restriction, as the executive order bars not only Muslims, but travel in general. With that in mind, this is as much of a Muslim ban as it is a Christian ban or a Michael J. Fox ban.

Interestingly enough, India, Indonesia and Pakistan — the three most populous Muslim nations on earth — didn’t find their way to the list, a curious feature of the alleged “Muslim Ban”. With all this in mind, I got to wondering that if this wasn’t a ban aimed at Muslims, why exactly did these nations end up as part of the travel ban? This then lead me to a fact largely glossed over in most coverage of the story.

In 2015, Barack Obama signed off on the Visa Waver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Protection Act. This served to identify several different “countr[ies] or area[s] of concern” while restricting the issuance of travel visas to persons who had visited these places. Incidentally the places identified, countries closely linked to terrorism, eventually grew to be all seven nations included in the travel restriction Trump enacted. Most reports mention this in passing, giving scant details on how it relates to current events. Trump’s executive order did not even specifically identify all seven countries by name; instead their inclusion came as a progression based on these previously enacted security measures. A few interesting observations can be drawn from this fact.

First, I don’t recall much nation-wide outcry over these previous restrictions. Though Trump has indeed enacted stricter regulations, it almost seems that these complaints have arisen not due to the issue it addressed but because of the man himself.

Second, as noted by the previous administration, these seven countries do indeed have close ties to numerous terrorist organizations. When discussing the Middle East, everyone dances around the issue for fear of accusing all Muslims of being terrorists. By no means am I making such a statement, but the danger of radicals from these areas cannot be denied.

Another common critique of the travel ban is its legality. I’ve seen things like, “Muslim Ban Unconstitutional” written in chalk on the walkways across campus, yet the ban is not illegal at all.

A worldwide and domestic precedent exists for security measures regarding travel. As stated earlier, Obama had a hand in 2015 travel regulations as well as restrictions on refugees from Iraq in 2011. I’ve heard these actions explained away as temporary in nature and dealing with specific threats, but the same thing could be said for President Trump’s actions. Have refugees been forever barred from the US? No. Is it more accurate to say that the president has temporarily blocked entry to ensure methods of immigration from these terror prone areas are thorough? I’d say so.

Along with this period of reassessment comes the idea of establishing safe zones in these countries. Instead of a taking indefinite amounts of refugees for an indeterminate amount of time, a temporary solution, safe zones would give these tumultuous areas a chance of returning to a state of viability. Unfortunately, I’ve found that most reports either willingly or by negligence don’t frame the story with these details.

People obviously disagree with the executive order, and they have the right to. Yet most of the outrage I’ve encountered on the issue is based on emotion, speculation or outright shoddy reporting. Not only this, but both individuals trying to present the facts and people not openly opposing the ban are publicly shamed while having their character called into question. It’s ironic that in the information age, with so much knowledge at our fingertips, the facts often remain unmentioned in favor of emotional responses or shocking headlines.

But as it turns out, the truth, though it might not look like much, can actually be pretty illuminating if you give it the chance.


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