Trump's ban erects wall of ideology, race and religion

31 January 2017

Trump's ill-advised ban may provide a 'told-you-so' moment for extremists who have long argued for cutting American ties over treatment of Muslims, writes Hussain Nadim.

Protesters gathered at JFK airport in New York to voice opposition to an executive order banning citizens of seven countries from traveling to the United States. Image: Rhododendrites/Wikimedia Commons

Protesters at JFK airport in New York voice opposition to an executive order restricting citizens of seven countries from traveling into the United States. Image: Rhododendrites/Wikimedia Commons


Not everyone is perturbed by President Donald Trump's executive order to place travel restrictions on the citizens of selected Muslim countries.

Islamists and extremists that have long failingly debated against the "evils" of democracy and the US are likely having a "told you so" moment. However, there are politicians, such as Pakistan's Imran Khan, that are looking at the silver lining of this policy if Pakistan was added to the selected countries list. 

There appears to be two outcomes that this policy could trigger. First, restricting Muslims from certain countries or placing them under extreme vetting may not only end up creating a lot more enemies for the US, provide fresh content to Islamist extremists for propaganda purposes and push common Muslims on the other side, it might damage American strategic interests all over the world.

Islamists and extremists have long argued for cutting ties with the US for its hate against Muslims. But an overwhelming majority of Muslims never fell for the propaganda and Islamists have failed to establish prominence or taken control in any of the Muslim countries.

In a single blow Trump has erected a wall – that of ideology, race and religion.

However, one stroke of Trump's pen may have vindicated Islamists giving more weight to their arguments than the Afghan and Iraq wars combined. Could this be an epoch for Islamists to finally get traction in the Muslim world?

The fact that a man could be elected in a democracy that is discriminating and peddling hate against a certain religious or ethnic community is coming to be the most convincing argument against Western liberal democracies and the US itself. 

The executive order and the message that sends washes away the gains that were made by the US government through its "winning hearts and minds" policy, which took years and billions of dollars to bear fruit in the Muslim world.

The tougher position that America is taking may make it more vulnerable and insecure. It will find itself in a complex world where threats are emanating not only from abroad but domestically.

What we are looking at as a result would be more internal attacks in the US, and Trump taking extreme measures against American citizens of certain backgrounds, including registering Muslims as expressed during his presidential campaign. In conflict studies, this is a classic insecurity cycle or a conflict trap.

In a single blow Trump has erected a wall – that of ideology, race and religion. The sides will have to be picked and many Muslims who are not extremists or terrorists will be stranded in the middle.

The second potential outcome of Trump's policy is a slight chance that the immigration restriction would allow some of the Muslim countries, their leaders and the people to take responsibility and control of their countries, instead of plundering it and finding an escape route.

This school of thought has been reflected by Khan, a former cricketer who now heads Pakistan's second largest political party. In his comments he argued that he would welcome a travel ban from Trump for Pakistan as a way for the country to fix its internal governance and security problems instead of relying on the US.

Perhaps this is Trump's end goal, to shake foreign policy and politics in Washington and do things differently to get different results given that for the longest time US interaction with the Muslim world has only produced corrupt leaders and instability in the region. This could potentially benefit the Trump government and perhaps the US in the long run by breaking the status quo in the region and forcing a bottom-up change.

Which of the two outcomes is more likely may depend on the situation of that specific country, but it will take years. In the meantime, the world will have to brace itself for the changes that are likely to come with an outsider in the White House.

Hussain Nadim is a PhD candidate and director of South Asia Study Group at the University of Sydney. This article was first published in the Sydney Morning Herald

Luke O'Neill

Media and Public Relations Adviser (Humanities and Social Sciences)

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