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Europe’s refugee crisis

Trump has crossed the line with ban on Muslims

Not even two weeks into office, the new US president has alienated Americans and others the world over; it’s time we all stood up to the bully

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 January, 2017, 2:57am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 January, 2017, 3:15am

Donald Trump has been president less than two weeks, but has already done great damage to the United States’ international standing and domestic harmony. His executive order last week to halt the American refugee programme, bar those from Syria indefinitely and suspend entry for nationals from seven majority-Muslim countries for 90 days has been rightly perceived as cruel and dangerous. It disregards the foundations of laws, immigration and freedoms that made America great. Senior government officials and foreign leaders have to speak out and curb the excesses of the unthinking commander-in-chief.

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Muslim Americans from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen affected by the order have lost faith in their government. Fellow Muslims who suspected that policies since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, including wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, were aimed at restricting them and their religion, believe they now have confirmation. Although the order was titled “Protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States”, it neglected countries whose citizens have been behind extremist plots against the US. Terrorism links run deep in Afghanistan and Pakistan, while Trump and his family have business interests in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Dubai.

Islamophobia and xenophobia stained Trump’s election campaign. Americans and the world should have been prepared; from his first day in office, he has been turning into reality the rhetoric that won him grass-roots support and the White House. His order was sudden and caught off guard thousands of Muslim travellers, American citizens among them, leaving many affected and confused. Lawyers were thankfully prepared and several federal judges have temporarily stopped the deportation of visa-holders and 16 state attorneys general have said that the decision is unconstitutional. Protests have erupted at airports around the US.

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Growing numbers in Trump’s Republican Party believe he has gone too far and some lawmakers in Congress have pledged to act. But while the president and his aides contend they have done nothing wrong, they failed to follow the necessary procedures for enacting the executive order, including checking its legality and alerting immigration officials.

The US Constitution and laws are a bulwark against executive excesses. But they cannot repair the damage done to the nation’s reputation and image. Nor can they prevent the bolstering of resolve by enemies of the US and its allies. Americans and the world have to let Trump know his excesses are unacceptable.