Donald Trump’s proposed Muslim Ban is an overtly racist policy and thankfully it has been, at least temporarily, postponed because of various federal court rulings.
The ban has been deemed by many as illegal and unconstitutional, with the latest dissenting voice coming from the now-sacked acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she told the Justice Department not to defend Trump’s ban.
Yates said she was not convinced of the legality of the order which prompted an unsurprising backlash from President Trump on Twitter. Yet Yates’ response is just part of the continued liberal posturing in the face of the policy that is undeniably hypocritical.
Many politicians and pundits are acting like arbiters of morality when previously they have backed awful, regressive policies that are not dissimilar to Trump’s.
Republican Senator Rob Portman echoed this revisionist approach to America’s border policies when he commented:
“We ought to all take a deep breath and come up with something that makes sense for our national security and again for this notion that America has always been a welcoming home for refugees and immigrants”
Whilst the Guardian offered the rather flaccid response of describing the ban as “un-American“.
These revisions of nationalist narrative to suit progressive means are always doomed to failure and would never stand up to scrutiny. America is a settler colonial state with a history of genocide, slavery and Jim Crow.
There is no overarching progressive American ideology; the country has a long history of pursuing regressive policies.
To suggest Trump is somehow the antithesis of this trend is simply untrue. Trump is not the first President to issue inhumane orders and unfortunately he won’t be the last.
In this regard it’s worth noting how America colonised and then annexed many of the now southern states from Mexico, including Texas and parts of California and then went on to build a wall to prevent Mexicans entering the USA (yes, the wall was already there before Trump got in), prompting Make America Mexico Again responses to Trump’s candidacy.
America has colonised, created borders and always restricted minority communities as shown by the 1892 renewal of the Chinese Exclusion Act and internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII – who were forced into labour camps and had their property seized by the state.
The point is to show that Trump’s ideas aren’t new initiatives, but part of a broader United States history – such analysis can also be applied readily to Europe.
European heads of states who are now shaking their head and likewise claiming a moral high ground have not got a leg to stand on after their continued propping up of Fortress Europe, with thousands of people dying trying to cross the Mediterranean and enter old continent last year alone.
The European Union is held up as a bastion of morality by ardent Remainers but in the end it negotiated crooked deals with Morocco and Libya to keep migrants out. These states were essentially paid by the European Union to keep people out at all costs.
How then can these same heads of state lament the Muslim ban when their own border policies are killing people? Particularly as said policies further exacerbated Islamophobic and anti-immigrant narratives present in European society since the start of the “War on Terror”.
The critical difference between these policies and Trump’s is that those adopted by Europe aren’t very well known nor are they as overt.
The same is true for the UK’s shady illegal detention centres that deny asylum seekers basic human rights from where the state attempts to ship them out of the UK at the first chance.
Trump has been creating headlines for his proposed Muslim registry but the UK government is trying to create its own registry, collecting country of birth and nationality data from school children aged 2-19 in order to create a “hostile environment” for migrants.
The outcry at Trump is because he has been so overt about his bigoted border policy – polite European leaders and Obama were just a little bit subtler about it all. This isn’t to say their policies were worse, but they were and still are very problematic.
If we want to articulate a critique of the Muslim Ban, we must counter the widespread and normalised Islamophobia and anti-immigrant narratives so present in our society and of all border policies and visa restrictions that the Western world upholds, not just the seven countries on Trump’s list.
Rather than bemoaning how people ignored these things we must also attempt to raise awareness regarding back room policies pursued in countries like Britain and by the wider European Union via Libya, Morocco and Turkey.
We also need to fight back against dominant narratives that demonise immigrants and refugees and thus allow and enable a climate whereby a ban, such as Trump’s, can gain popular support.
The current situation is an opportunity for progressives to steal the momentum from the likes of Trump and articulate a politics that mobilises the fear displayed by many.
The women’s march and the recent protests against newly elected president show that there is an energy and a large number of people who are not happy with the way things are going.
Those with progressive ideals have to articulate an over-arching narrative that brings in these newly politically active people and frames things through the lens of anti-establishment, anti-racism and anti-border politics. Easier said than done, I know.