Travel Ban and Global Public Square
By Dr Basheer Khan
Garden Grove, CA
It is fair to say that Fareed Zakaria’s program, GPS, on CNN is a powerful voice of a Muslim journalist in support of the liberal democratic order to the right of center. In its December 29th program, there was a lively discussion on the executive order of Trump’s administration to temporarily ban the entry of people from seven Muslim majority countries into the US.
Mr Romero of ACLU, which obtained a stay from the court on the order, collected 24 million dollars in donations to fight the case in the Supreme Court (SC). He was confident that this ban will be overturned by the SC because it discriminates against people of certain nations and certain communities which violate the 1965 law on migration.
Mr Jonathan Turley, a Professor of Constitutional law who frequently appears on Congress panels, opined that it is unlikely that ACLU will succeed in its attempt, and it will be a long haul. His reasoning is that it is unlikely the Supreme Court will second guess the matter because of the deference to the President and his administration on matters of National Security. Furthermore, it will be impossible for the Supreme Court to accept this move as a ban of a religious group because most of the other Muslim majority countries are exempt from it. A visiting professor to American University in Rome, Ms Rula Jebreal was passionate in her claim that it is a ban of Muslims. Mr Turley counseled that passions will only complicate the situation while persuasion is the correct course to reverse the trend when there is so much popular support on both sides. As I have been observing him, Mr Turley is a cool voice of reason. In 2001 after 9/11 he told a senate panel that the tragedy of 9/11 should be taken as a law and order problem and not be escalated into a war. As his counsel was not taken seriously we are in an unsafe world with atomic clock advancing by 30 seconds. If we do not respond to his counsel of reason now, the problem is likely to aggravate further.
One of the things which Mr David Miliband, Mr Romero, Ms Rula Jebrael and Farid were emphasizing in the discussion was that many of the Muslims who fought loyally on the side of the US in these seven countries, and their families here, feel betrayed by this travel ban. This reminded me of a lesson in history which I was given in my early age by a guide at the historical site of Sri Rangapatnam which was the capital of Tipu Sultan and by Mr Ghulam Mustafa, the Head Master of my school.
When I was in 6th grade we were taken on a field trip to Sri Rangapatnam. It was a memorable trip which triggered my interest in nature, travel and history as a young curious boy. The guide took us to the place where Mir Sadiq, a functionary of Tipu Sultan, was buried close to the fort. The guide told us that Mir Sadiq was the one who opened the gates of the fort for the British army to enter the city. When Mir Sadiq asked for his reward from Col Wellesley, he shot him dead saying that the one who could not be loyal to his master, can’t be loyal to us. This may sound like a tragic betrayal but this is a logical response which may sound illegal or immoral to conscientious. Later on while we were relaxing after eating our brown bag lunches our headmaster gave us the important lesson of history relevant to this historical site of a lost Kingdom. He told us a story about an arrogant King who went on a hunting trip and got separated from his entourage. When the King couldn’t find his way back to his palace, he realized the reality of a verse from the Qur’an over which he had misgivings, which states: “To Allah belong all kingdoms. He gives it to whoever He wills and takes away from whoever He wills.” Arrogant rulers throughout history have ignored this fact. Abraham Lincoln has alluded to this fact by pointing out that civilizations are not destroyed by the strength of the enemies but by their own weaknesses.
Demonstrations by thousands of opponents of immigration ban speak volumes about the goodwill which Americans have for the suffering people. It also has a possibility of mobilizing more people in support of the radicals in both camps as alluded to by Mr Turley. Passions can mobilize crowds and divide people and bring them into confrontation while patience and political and legal process may lead to a solution. This ban is only for 90 days and the hope is that during this time the (extreme) vetting process will take place and the affected people will land here one day. But if the confrontation goes on, as is the intention of some in both camps who want to consolidate their leadership by fishing in troubled waters, this process will be delayed and perhaps even die. In a dire situation like this Nabi SA has taught us a prayer which all of us should make: O Allah guide our hearts to what is good for us. Help us to keep our tongues in control and take the rancor out of our hearts. Amen.
At a time when the global order is calibrating itself to the anomaly of national and parochial interests on which it was based, and entering into new regional and global alliances, Muslim leaders, scholars and masses must be careful about their words and their actions.