In late January, in a scene out of the “Hunger Games,” protestors flooded Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport to protest Executive Order 13769 by President Trump, restricting immigration and refugees to the U.S., chanting, “Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho! Muslim ban has got to go!”
Across town, the ACLU declared: “We filed suit against @RealDonalTrump’s #MuslimBan.” In San Francisco, Muslim Advocates, an advocacy group, said, “We reaffirm our commitment to working with allies and using every legal tool to challenge discriminatory laws. #MuslimBan #NoBanNoWall,” referring to a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.
#MuslimBan and #NoBanNoWall emerged as early battle cries for anti-Trump #resistance protests, one even turning violent. Media outlets, from the New York Times to Qatar’s Al-Jazeera media channel and liberal outlets Slate, MSNBC, Vox and BuzzFeed repeated the term “Muslim ban.”
Now, with a new executive order announced yesterday, new hyperbole has emerged in the Left’s hashtag war on Trump: #MuslimBan2, the ACLU using that hashtag hours before the new executive order’s announcement by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, U.S. Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsOvernight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability Stanford professors ask DOJ to stop looking for Chinese spies at universities in US Overnight Energy & Environment — Democrats detail clean electricity program MORE and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
The lingering factual problem with the hysteria: there is no “Muslim ban."
Still, nowhere on the list are the countries with the world’s largest Muslim populations—Indonesia, Pakistan and my native India—thus making the claim of a “Muslim ban” false. The new order names six countries of “concern” inherited from the Obama administration, first through the Visa Waiver Program and Terrorist Travel Protection Act of 2015, which identified Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Syria as “countries of concern,” and, then, through the May 2016 Obama administration decision to include the “addition of Libya, Somalia, and Yemen” in the list of “countries of concern.” The new order removes Iraq from restrictions and makes other important revisions to the first executive order.
The big picture, to me, as an immigrant to the U.S. and a Muslim reformer who voted for Trump, the new order is a necessary band-aid on the very real ideological threat of Islamic extremism, and I hope it is only the first of many measures that also incentivize state sponsors of extremism, including the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, to stop spreading extremism. It was music to the ears of many Muslims, like me, when Trump last week said at a joint session of Congress: “We are also taking strong measures to protect our nation from radical Islamic terrorism.”
Meanwhile, the hysteria around a “Muslim ban” is irresponsible and dangerous, acting as soft propaganda for extremists, fomenting hate, anger and, potentially, violence against the U.S. As a feminist, I also won’t be participating in the anti-Trump #DayWithoutAWomen protests – urging women to boycott work – because it realizes the fantasies of the very extremists I fight within my faith.
The agitation propaganda machine is important to understand because it is a window into a deeply-entrenched network that exaggerates “anti-Muslim hate” in America, deflecting attention from the real enemy: the extremist Islamic ideology killing so many around the world, including Muslims.
The hysteria is a strategic campaign, fomented by Democrat and Democrat-leaning nonprofits, activists and politicians, most of whom other Muslim reformers and I have battled for years, as they systematically obfuscate issues of Islamic extremism, as part of an “honor brigade” that includes well-intentioned liberals, balking at naming Islamic extremism and shifting the conversation to “Islamophobia.” The campaign exploits identity politics to push #NoBanNoWall. Tomorrow, they exploit women’s rights campaigns to push forward this counterproductive #DayWithoutAWomen, led by the same partisan organizers behind the so-called #WomensMarch.
It’s important to understand the cacophony of voices on #MuslimBan has been coordinating for almost a decade. In 2008, the Atlantic Philanthropies and Open Society Foundations, a philanthropy established by billionaire George Soros, then a big donor to Obama’s presidential bid, launched an initiative called the “National Security and Human Rights Campaign.” Over the years, they doled out millions of dollars in grants to the ACLU, the Muslim Advocates and dozens of others participating in the #MuslimBan hysteria, to challenge post-9/11 Bush administration counterterrorism policies and“promote progressive national security policies,” including defending the rights of “suspected terrorists.”
In 2012, NSHR started funding a “field-wide Communications Hub,” run by a Berkeley, Calif., “grantee,” ReThink Media, a communications firm with a former official from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, as its “Security and Rights Collaborative” senior media associate. One of its early self-described accomplishments: creating an “echo chamber” for like-minded liberal groups. Now, past and present NSHR grantees are targeting Trump—irresponsibly enflaming fears with the myth of the “Muslim ban.” ReThink Media wrote an anti-Trump message soon after the president’s inauguration: “What a difference two weeks makes. Remember, we are stronger when stand together. #NoBanNoWall.” Yesterday, it promoted “top reporters who cover Islamophobia,” in the midst of “#MuslimBan 2.0.” ReThink Media, the ACLU and Muslim Advocates didn’t respond to repeated queries for comment.
For the 2016 campaign, Soros donated $10.6 million to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHeller won't say if Biden won election Whitmer trailing GOP challenger by 6 points in Michigan governor race: poll GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 MORE, according to federal filings, and many of the “NSHR” grantees threw their support behind Clinton.
When the first executive order came out, an Open Society Foundations spokesperson told me via email, “OSF’s National Security and Human Rights Campaign is an effort to support organizations that stand up for human rights, government accountability and the rule of law. Mr. Trump campaigned on calls for a Muslim ban.” She said “the order casts a wide and prejudicial ban on a large class of people, defined by place of origin and religion. This goes against our values and our laws, as evidenced by the concerns voiced by elected officials across the ideological spectrum, and the actions of several federal courts.”
Asked if Open Society funds were being used to oppose the executive order, the spokeswoman said: “I would be surprised if organizations working on national security and civil and human rights were not using any available resources to address the extraordinary challenges presented by the executive order.”
In my analysis of 38 documents that discuss NSHR operations and funding, I see the names of many of individuals and groups now stoking fear about the non-existent “Muslim ban,” including: former host of the Qatar-owned Al-Jazeera TV channel, Wajahat Ali, hired to write a 2011 “anti-Muslim hate” report by the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank founded by former chairman of the Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign, John Podesta, and the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, which tweeted out earlier this year, “#MuslimBan tarnishes American image as land of optimism & opportunity. The fight continues.” Ali and the Center for American Progress didn’t return queries for comment.
Just as liberals study the “dark money” provided by the conservative billionaires, the Koch brothers, to political causes, we must understand the intersection of money and politics on the left. For example, “NSHR” grantees were behind the pressure that led this week to major New York Police Department concessions on surveillance, something which NYPD officials said would aid terrorists.
In this battle, like others galvanizing around anti-Trump hate, the American left is aligning with groups that are on the Muslim right. Imraan Siddiqui, executive director of the Arizona chapter of CAIR, which has opposed U.S. “countering violent extremism” programs, takes credit for being “ground zero” for #NoBanNoWall.
Previously, as Trump’s victory as America’s 45th president seemed apparent this past election day, Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the CAIR chapter in Los Angeles, issued a battle cry to his Twitter followers, “Ok, repeat after me: Al-Shaab yureed isqat al-nizaam. (Arab Spring chant).”
Protestors had shouted the chant at Tahrir Square in Cairo to remove Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak from power. The translation: “The people want to overthrow the regime.” (He later deleted the tweet.),” and it’s launched another campaign that stokes hysteria, #RegisterMeFirst, to oppose a non-existent “Muslim registry.”
Rather than succumb to these apocalyptic “chicken little” cries of “#MuslimBan,” forcing our attention away from the real problem of Islamic extremism, I gently urge Muslims—and other well-intentioned folks—to take this unique opportunity of a new presidency to directly challenge the ideology of Islamic extremism, directing our outrage at the real enemy, the ideologues that promote Islamic extremism, defeating them and saving lives everywhere, so that we actually ban something very nefarious from this world: the ideology of Islamic extremism.
Asra Q. Nomani (@AsraNomani) is a former Wall Street Journal reporter and the author of Standing Alone: An American Woman’s Struggle for the Soul of Islam. She is a cofounder of the Muslim Reform Movement.
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