When the Land of the Free Isn’t Free To All

On January 27, President Donald Trump announced the temporary entry restriction United States for travelers from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen – seven majority Muslim countries. Likely the most controversial of all the executive orders Trump has issued, the “Muslim ban” has invoked mass protests all over the nation, caused confusion and disorder at many airports, and separated several families. With its broad implications and heavy historical impact, there’s no question that this will significantly change the course of American history and our relationships with other nations, specifically in the Middle East. Even if it has no direct effect on many GDS students at the moment, the Muslim ban will play an important role in shaping the future of the country in which we live.

In his original proposal of the Muslim ban, Trump supported his claim by saying that people who solely believe in jihad “have no sense of reason or respect for human life.” He continued by citing the Center for Security Policy’s poll of six hundred Muslims in America which stated that fifty one percent “agreed that Muslims in America should have the choice of being governed according to Shariah.” Many supporters of the ban believe that it is necessary, even temporarily, to stop the influx of Muslims while the government sorts out how to counteract terrorism in America.

On the outside, the ban may seem like a quick fix, a simple no-brainer solution to disregard any risk of the terror attacks that dominate the headlines for days, never failing to highlight race or religious affiliation as the dominant factor.

9/11 has turned into the Trump administration’s number one tool to point a finger at every single person with brown skin, increasing in strength with every attack made by a Muslim. Yet, conveniently, this is never affected by attacks made by white, “lone wolves” whose main problem was not seeking proper treatment for a mental illness that got out of hand. Our society’s distorted view on Muslims has turned evidence from the FBI that suggests that terror attacks are nine times more likely to be caused by a non-Muslim than by a Muslim, into one that is greeted with surprise and disbelief.

Yet what many Americans fail to see are the long-term effects of this ban. Claiming that all Muslims are dangerous and taking away any hope of escaping from their war-torn homelands does nothing but push aggrieved Muslims straight into the welcoming arms of extremist groups and thus aggravate the issue further. The extremist groups who prey on Muslims who are simply looking for some kind of purpose have finally received their concrete evidence to the claim that they have been making all along, that America is waging a war against the entirety of Islam. Trump has essentially put them in a box and given them no other path to take and then, confused as to why anyone would choose to do something so horrendous from the comfort of his five-star hotel room, goes on to blame their skin color and religion for their actions.


Personally, as a Chinese American, the ban serves as a harsh reminder of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882. The act banned Chinese entrance into the U.S. to protect the interests of gold miners as competition for work increased around the 1850s. Though initially intended to last only ten years, it was not formally repealed until 1943, somehow escaping the concerns of twelve different administrations to be part of American policy for sixty one years. The Chinese Exclusion Act is hauntingly similar to Trump’s promise to make the Muslim ban temporary;  I imagine that the scene at airports following the travel ban announcement was rather similar to that of the ports of San Francisco in 1882, when many Chinese immigrants were informed that they would not be able to enter the country. A clear testament to the age-old saying that history repeats itself, I believe that we must remain vigilant and continue to hold the administration accountable for their actions.

The ban has prompted many concerns and questions throughout America and in the GDS community. Aziz Mohammed ‘18 expressed his concerns about how this has all happened so early on in Trump’s term: “The fact that he is willing to do something so brazen in his first few weeks in office doesn’t look good for the rest of his term.” Who knows what Trump will do for the next four years given what he has already done in his first month? Doubtless, there are a million questions going through the minds of not only Americans but people around the world — questions that will only increase given Trump’s volatile decision making. What will he do next? Where are the boundaries of what he will do? Who can or will be able to stop him, if anyone? After all, Trump himself stated “Without looking at the various polling data, it is obvious to anybody the hatred is beyond comprehension.”

By: Joyce Yang