- A suspension of the US Refugee Admissions Programme for 120 days
- An indefinite ban on Syrian refugees
- A 90-day suspension on anyone arriving from seven Muslim-majority countries – Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. Some visa categories, such as diplomats and the UN, are not included in the suspension
- Priority will be given to religious minorities facing persecution in their countries. In an interview, Mr Trump singled out Christians in Syria
- A cap of 50,000 refugees to be accepted in 2017, against a limit of 110,000 set by former President Barack Obama
- A suspension of the Visa Interview Waiver Program, which allows consular officers to exempt some applicants from face-to-face interviews if they are seeking to renew their temporary visas within a year of expiry
- Exceptions could be made on a case-by-case basis
What’s wrong with it?
It’s a betrayal of America’s glorious tradition of being a land that welcomes immigrants and refugees. One of my favourite places in the world is Ellis island the port of entry for so many immigrants who came to the US and made America great. In a world where there are more refugees than ever before it seems somewhat incongruous that the worlds richest economy should be planning to half the number of refugees it takes. This information from the Pew Research Centre shows that around 40% of refugees were Muslim in 2016 – the two countries from which most refugees came were the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Iraq.
I found it interesting that the Obama administration has resettled 13,210 Syrian refugees into the United States since the beginning of 2016 — an increase of 675 percent over the same 10-month period in 2015. Of those, 13,100 (99.1 percent) are Muslims — 12,966 Sunnis, 24 Shi’a, and 110 other Muslims — and 77 (0.5 percent) are Christians. Another 24 (0.18 percent) are Yazidis. Why so few Christians, given that 10% of the Syrian population are Christian and they are one of the most persecuted minorities.
But this ridiculous blanket policy has resulted in Christian Refugees being sent back too
It won’t achieve the purpose it is designed to do. At best it is virtue signalling by the President – showing his supporters that he keeps his word. At worst it is a ‘strongman’ doing something to show his power, just because he can. Its gesture politics. Theatre. showmanship. The man from ‘reality’ TV is bringing us the political version of that particular genre.
Consider this – not one citizen from the seven banned countries was convicted between the years 2005-2015. Most terrorists attacking Americans have come from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Lebanon and other countries not on the list. Again beware of the fake news reports – this list was not drawn up according to Trump’s business interests, but rather actually came from Obama’s administration in 2015.
Although it is not a ban on Muslims, it sounds like one. And for that reason it will fuel the number one reason for terrorism – grievance. The ‘Great Satan’ will have acted like Satan in the eyes of America’s Islamist detractors.
It has been badly enacted. It was ham-fisted and cruel. I am in two minds here. Either Trump and his advisors are incompetent and did not anticipate the reaction, or they are extremely clever and have set up this particular sideshow so that they can get on with other stuff.
President Trump has sought to justify it by stating that it is similar to the ban imposed by President Obama on Iraqi refugees in 2011. I thought this point made a lot of sense and said so. I was wrong. There is a big difference. As The Gospel Coalition article on this points out – “the Obama administration doesn’t appear to have changed the visa policy, did not issue a direct halt on refugees from that country, and did not put a stoppage on non-refugee visas held by Iraqi nationals as President Trump has done.” Incidentally read that article for a balanced and fair summary of the facts.
Overall the policy is ill-advised, ill thought out and to be frank, immoral. It affects people directly. As it happens last Sunday we had a meal with an Iranian brother. He of course is now banned from entering the US. Why?
Thankfully there have been many Christians in the US as well as here who have challenged this policy – but there are too many who seem prepared to excuse it. This is because identity politics has become the norm and we fall into the trap of ‘our man can do no wrong’ or ‘their man can do no right’? How else do you explain Franklin Graham’s bizarre comment – “It’s not a biblical command for the country to let everyone in who wants to come, that’s not a Bible issue.” This is at best a disingenuous attempt to defend the policy. The argument is not that everyone should be let in who wants to come. Once you start arguing against what people are not saying, you have lost the right to be heard. But it is also wrong to say that this is not a biblical issue. Welcoming refugees, the poor and the displaced are a core part of biblical faith.
It is inconsistent and hypocritical to complain when the government does not uphold biblical values on the sanctity of life, and then keep silent when it does not uphold biblical values on helping the oppressed.
Far better has been this response from Russell Moore of the Southern Baptists in The Washington Post. Read his letter if you want to see an example of how to speak truth to power!
What’s wrong with the Protests?
I appreciate very much that there are those who are genuinely concerned about what is happening and want to protest against President Trump. I appreciate even more those who don’t just sign a petition but actually get out on the streets to express their opposition. However there are some really disturbing aspects from these protests.
The Hysteria – The perception of Trump as the devil, the incarnation of evil is preventing any sane rational discussion. Thats why you get the irrationality of uber left wingers championing a petition which seeks to save the Queen embarrassment! As usual Brendan O’Neill nails it!
“So yes, let us oppose this miserable order. But we also need to talk about the protesting against it. It is close to unhinged, and that is a big problem. So far, sadly, the opposition to the order has been a kind of unreason, too. It has substituted the cool, tough, political critique of the order that we need with its own brand of fearmongering and the deployment of an ahistorical dread about the return of Nazism. Witness the febrile whispers about a new fascism, the transformation of Trump into a little Hitler no respectable Western leader, including British PM Theresa May, should meet with. If the order exposes a lack of moral conviction in the Trump camp, the opposition reveals the absence of a moral anchor, of reasoned politics, in the modern left.”
The Hubris – We can change the world. 1.5 million people in the UK signing an online petition means that the US will change! On the one hand we have politicians and media solemnly saying that we should effectively ignore the actual votes of 17 million people over Brexit, whilst on the other they argue we should change policy because 2.5% of the population sign an online petition. Thinking that signing an online petition is an ‘I am Spartacus’ moment is a delusion which prevents real action. Right now I am listening to journalists and comedians on BBC Radio Scotland congratulating each other on how rude, humourous and good we are at making signs. Apparently the Revolution comes through Facebook likes! The hubris is also seen in this. So many people are congratulating themselves that they are on the side of unity and ‘love’ whereas everyone else is on the side of hate. Ironically they fail to see how divisive such self-righteousness is.
The Hypocrisy – the former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright said she would register as a Muslim in protest. This is the woman who a when asked whether the death of 500,000 Iraqi children because of the sanctions intended to bring down the Saddam regime was worth it, replied ““I think this is a very hard choice, but the price… we think the price is worth it.” Or Ed Miliband, former Labour leader, leading protests in Westminster. This one really sticks in my throat, because I remember the same Ed Miliband almost pleading with the British government to bomb Libya – a policy which has resulted in the destruction of that State, a massive increase in refugees into Europe and the deaths of thousands. In other words his policies helped create the refugee crisis that he is now pontificating about. The list could go on…
Of course the church has to get in on the act as well. The Church of Scotland moderator made what it described as ‘a faithful call’ ““As for us, it is vitally important that the Church of Scotland shines a light on this injustice, that we pray for all those concerned, and that we act to make our own governments aware of Christs call to care for others, not just ourselves and our own.” Forgive the cynicism but that’s like the church issuing a ‘faithful call’ saying it’s against sin and for motherhood and applepie (although in today’s climate I wonder if the church could say that?!). But what bothers me about this statement of ‘horror’ is its selectivity. Where was the Church of Scotland’s ‘faithful call’ when the Chinese President visited – given the ongoing and systematic real persecution of Christians in China?
To those who are marching just now to ‘voice your anger’ and getting all wound up on social media. I have a question for you. Where were you? Where were you when President Xi of China and Saudi King Abdullah came on State visits to the Queen? Didn’t you know or care about the harm their policies do? Where were you when Hilary and
Obama dropped numerous bombs on Yemen, resulting in the death of many women and children (from my perspective bombing women and children is a whole lot worse than banning visas for the few who can afford to travel)? Where were you when the Obama administration at the end of last year started forcibly deporting thousands of Haitian Refugees ? Where were you when the EU stopped rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean in a bid to discourage Africans and Arabs coming from Libya and thousands drowned?
I’m also curious. You rightly regard citizens from seven countries being banned for 90 days from travelling to the US as being wrong, what would you say if it was 16 countries and they were permanently banned? Would that not deserve your anger, tears, petitions and marches? So why have you kept silent that citizens of Israel have been permanently banned from travelling to 16 countries? Am I wrong in thinking that it is far more likely that a crowd would protest at the Edinburgh festival if a group of Israeli actors took part, than it is that a protest against this discrimination would occur outside the Saudi embassy?
Where were you when Christians in Syria and Iraq were being destroyed? Why are you not on the streets about the murder of 5 Coptic Christians in Egypt having their throats slit?
What about the stuff you can actually do something about? Where were you when the British government changed its immigration policy so that for example a friend of mine was refused entry to the UK to live with her Scottish husband, because he did not earn more than £18,000 per year – he was a charity worker. She had lived here for over seven years and yet still they were going to stop her living with her husband. Are you campaigning for more refugees in your own city? In your own community? Will you be willing to help them? Or is this just about a land far far away and a fantasy President doing Reality TV politics?
The US takes less than 0.5% of the refugees in the world. In the grand scheme of things this ban is not going to make a big difference to most. Where is the concern and compassion for the millions in Syria, Turkey and Libya? And what about the refugees in Scotland? Its easy enough to go on the streets of Glasgow, Dundee, Edinburgh. St Andrews and even Kirkwall to ‘campaign’ against President Trump. It costs you nothing, it affects him not one whit and it changes nothing. Its theatre. But if you want reality where is your anger that many refugee children in our own country are left destitute? Maybe because we might actually have to do something?
But the people who upset me the most are the virtue signalling politicians who are tweeting selfies all over the place, letting everyone know how anti-fascist they are and how they are right on the pulse of the revolution. I’m sorry but you can do very little about Donald Trump (except feed his ego whilst at the same time feeding your own self- righteousness) but there are plenty things you can do. I know that there are many (perhaps most) MP’s and MSP’s who work quietly away helping and representing their constituents as well as offering their vote on more national and international issues. But it seems to me that there are also too many politicians trying to put right the wrongs of the world rather than dealing with the problems within their own communities. We don’t elect you to pose in front of cameras as you campaign to ban the leader of another nation. We want you to get on with governing Britain.
The Horror – Politicians and media are playing with fire. They are stirring up an irrational, emotive mob through social media, fake news, post truth, fear and virtue signalling. They need to beware that the beast they create could just as easily turn on them. I know why some are doing this – it makes them feel good and important, they are genuinely horrified at Trumps actions, its low hanging fruit and it can be used to further other causes – anti-Brexit, pro-independence etc and attack the UK government, but its a very dangerous game to play. The mob is fickle – left-wing mobs can quickly become right-wing mobs and vice versa.
The Hummus Revolution? – Incidentally I find it interesting that the top twenty areas for signing this petition are almost all in London, apart from Bristol, Edinburgh, Brighton, Oxford and Cambridge. All of them are anti-Brexit and all of them are middle class university areas. It seems a very middle class way to have a protest/revolution – sip a Latte, make a sign and share it all on Twitter. In my view this virtue signalling, social media protesting won’t make one iota of difference to Donald Trump and perhaps may even encourage and enhance him.
So, I’m not a Trump fan and I won’t be signing the petition to bring him here. Nor will I be signing the petition to ban him. I won’t be joining the Hummus revolution! Where can I turn?
The Hope – I can’t just leave it there. Maybe Trump will be impeached? maybe he will go mad? maybe things will work out and all the doom mongers will be proved wrong? I haven’t a clue. But I know this. I don’t trust Trump, or May, or Sturgeon or any of our political leaders. I respect them and pray for them, but I don’t place my hope upon them. I think it is a fundamental mistake for the church to hitch itself to a pro-Trump bandwagon, or an anti-Trump bandwagon. My hope is only in Christ and his sovereign and gracious care of us. So we pray, work for justice and live our lives in as much godliness and love as He enables. Christ is the light of the world….maybe the best thing we can do is proclaim His reality in the midst of this surreal, confused and angry world. Lets join the Christian Revolution of Love, not the Trump or Hummus ones.
After I wrote this article I read this in The Spectator which reinforces a great deal of it!