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Donald Trump

American Muslims sue Trump over ‘fear-mongering’ travel ban

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 January, 2017, 4:10am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 January, 2017, 4:10am

American Muslim leaders filed suit against President Donald Trump Monday over an immigration order that they said was a “fear-mongering” attempt at keeping members of their religion out of the country.

Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, joined 26 others as plaintiffs in the lawsuit alleging that Trump’s temporary ban on immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries was in fact a “Muslim exclusion order” that violates the US constitution’s religious freedom protections.

“Donald Trump’s executive order is not based on national security, it is based on fear-mongering,” Awad said Monday. “This is not a Muslim ban, it is a Muslim exclusion order.”

Besides excluding Muslim refugees and immigrants from abroad, the suit alleges Trump’s executive order will force out US-resident Muslims from those seven countries “by denying them the ability to renew their lawful status or receive immigration benefits... based solely on their religious beliefs.”

That will lead to “the mass expulsion” of both immigrant and non-immigrant Muslims, the suit, filed in the district court in Alexandria, Virginia, alleged.

Chaos broke out over the weekend as border and customs officials struggled to put Trump’s directive into practise amid legal challenges and loud protests at major US airports.

The president’s critics said his action unfairly singled out Muslims, violated US law and the Constitution, and defiled America’s historic reputation as a welcoming place for immigrants.

On Twitter, Trump appeared to blame the airport confusion on protesters as well as on Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer, who teared up over the weekend while discussing the ban, and even a computer system failure at Delta Air Lines Inc late on Sunday.

Schumer said he would bring legislation on Monday evening seeking to end the ban, although the measure stood little chance of being passed by the Republican-led Congress.

“We should repeal this, and then we should sit down in a careful, thoughtful way to figure out ways we need to tighten up things against terrorism,” the senior New York senator told NBC News, noting that some Republican lawmakers also had spoken out against Trump’s action.

Democrats in the House of Representatives sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly seeking an urgent meeting to discuss the order, which they said “belies our proud heritage as a nation of tolerance,” Politico reported.

Trump responded further on Twitter.

The reaction in the rest of the world has largely been to condemn the action, both from US allies and foes.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel accused the United States of unfairly targeting Muslims.

“The essential and also resolute fight against terrorism in no way justifies general suspicion against people of a specific faith, in this case people of the Muslim faith, or people of a certain background,” she said.

“We reject... the decision to prevent the reception of Iraqis in the United States of America, and call for its review,” Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari told the US ambassador to Baghdad.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said it would be “common sense” for Trump to scrap the travel ban.

The measure was “unacceptable and very punishing for those concerned”, he said at the start of a visit to Tehran, while also announcing his country plans to double the number of visas it issues to Iranians.

The travel ban is illegal, said UN human rights chief Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein.

Zeid tweeted that “discrimination on nationality alone is forbidden under human rights law”, adding that “the US ban is also mean-spirited and wastes resources needed for proper counter-terrorism.”

Muslim-Americans who filed the lawsuit said legal residents and visitors to the country, if they left temporarily, would not be able to return under Trump’s order.

The suit said the order, announced Saturday, reflected anti-Muslim sentiments that Trump expressed during the presidential campaign.

“The Muslim Exclusion Order is the as-promised outcome of Defendant Trump’s hateful, year-long campaign which was fueled, in significant part, by a desire to stigmatise Islam and Muslims,” it said.

Lawyers said the order violates the US Constitution’s protections of religious freedoms and the “establishment clause,” which bans the government from making laws that favour or discriminate against specific religions.