Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ met with anger in Southeast Asia

By: Logan Connor - Posted on: January 30, 2017 | Current Affairs

US President Donald Trump’s executive order banning travellers from seven Muslim-majority nations has been condemned by the region’s Islamic nations

People gather and hold signs during a protest at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport after new immigration policies enacted by US President Donald Trump in Atlanta, Georgia,
People gather and hold signs during a protest at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport after new immigration policies enacted by US President Donald Trump in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 29 January 2017. Photo: EPA/ERIK S. LESSER

With the stroke of a pen Friday evening, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries entering the US.

Declaring the beginning of “extreme vetting” of visitors to the US, citizens of Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Iran, Syria and Yemen were blocked from entering the country for 90 days. The order also bans any refugee admissions for 120 days, with Syrian refugees excluded indefinitely.

As individuals with valid visas and permanent residency status were detained at airports, the order was met with confusion as to who exactly would be allowed into the US.

While the order does not explicitly ban immigrants and travellers on the basis of religious grounds, it has been labelled a ‘Muslim ban’ by critics worldwide, as the order targets Muslim-majority nations.

Indonesia, home to the world’s largest Muslim population with about 204 million people identifying as followers of Islam, is not among the countries listed in Trump’s order.

But Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi expressed her disappointment with the ban, telling Reuters on Sunday that the Indonesian government held “deep regrets about the policy”.

Arrmanatha Nasir, spokesman for Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told AFP his government was sceptical of the order’s efficacy.

“Even though this policy is the United States’ authority, Indonesia deeply regrets it because we believe it would affect the global fight against terrorism and the refugees management negatively,” he said. Indonesian President Joko Widodo has yet to comment publicly on the issue.

A statement on the website of the Indonesian embassy in Washington told Indonesians living the US to respect US law but understand their rights, directing them to the website of the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ban also raises questions for refugees from these nations who are languishing in Indonesia, as the US now seems an unlikely option for resettlement and Australia maintains strict border control policies.

While the Trump administration plans to honour an Obama-era refugee swap deal with Australia, which would see a large number of the 1,200 asylum seekers held in offshore processing centres resettled in the US, refugees in Indonesia will not come into the equation.

In Malaysia, where about 60% of the population is Muslim, opposition lawmaker Ong Kian Ming blasted the order and called on Prime Minister Najib Razak to condemn the policy.

“It is an inhumane action,” he said in a statement, “especially for those Syrian refugees who already have been granted approval to travel to and seek asylum in the United States.”

On Saturday, a federal judge in the US granted an emergency stay to bar the deportation of people with valid visas who were detained at, or travelling between, US airports.

In a statement issued by the White House Sunday evening, Trump defended the ban, saying that while the US is a “proud nation of immigrants”, the administration needed to take extreme actions for the sake of national security.

“To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. This is not about religion – this is about terror and keeping our country safe,” Trump said in the statement, adding that there are more than “40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order.”