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Reuben Abati: Donald Trump and the Muslim World

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I am not a fan of Donald Trump, the incumbent President of the United States. I didn’t stand with him. I stood with her- Hillary Clinton- in the last US Presidential election. No other election in recent American history has been more international in terms of interest and emotional involvement. Trump’s election even divided the Nigerian middle class. A majority of Christians in Nigeria stood with Donald Trump. They liked his anti-Muslim rhetoric, and in a country where religion is such a volatile subject and the Christian community feels as if it is under siege from radical Islamic extremism, it was easy for a category of Nigerians to see Trump’s politics being in sync with their own fears and expectations.

Pro-secessionist, Biafran and Christian protesters in the South East also supported Trump. On his Inauguration Day, they organized a rally; some of them were killed, in the process, by Nigerian security agents.  It is always so easy to read American politics into every other politics globally because of America’s status as a superior power and the global dominance of its culture.  Many Nigerians who opposed Hillary Clinton of the Democratic Party also did so, for example, for partisan reasons, because they felt the Democratic administration of President Barrack Obama was responsible in many ways for the outcome of the 2015 Presidential election in Nigeria.

They wanted a pound of flesh – they wanted the Democrats out of the White House, the same way the PDP exited Aso Villa. The funny thing is that Nigerians, who do not hold American citizenship, were not in a position to vote in the US election, but this didn’t deter us from weeping more than the Americans. In my case, I opposed Trump because I consider him a vile, navel-gazing, crude, child-like nativist, whose Presidency could pose a threat to the free world.

I have been proven right. The United States is in trouble because of Donald Trump.  In less than two weeks in office, President Trump has signed executive orders, which amount to an assault on the liberal international order. America is great because it became the dreamland and the symbol of freedom, prosperity and fulfilment for persons and families across the world. It is great because it became the melting pot for global genius, the preferred destination for generations of talented persons in all fields of human endeavour. America is great because its diversity and multiculturalism became pillars of its exceptionalism.

Donald Trump, on twitter where he spends his waking hours, and on the podium, where he rants, says his ambition is to “Make America Great Again” (#MAGA), but it is beginning to look as if Trump will end up making America small.  The Executive Orders which he has signed so far, are intended to upturn America’s foreign policy in the last 50 years, isolate the country from the rest of the world and turn it into an island. America appears destined to become a pariah state for the next four years. With Trump, America now sees the rest of the world as an ocean of enemies, with this persecution complex dressed up as national interest.

The most pernicious of the Executive Orders is Trump’s suspension of the US refugee programme for four months and the entry ban for 90 days imposed on nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Is the action legal?  Section 212(f) of the US Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) (1952) empowers the President to restrict immigration access to the United States: “Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants and non-immigrants or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.”  The sentiment behind this legal provision is protectionism, which is ironic in a country of immigrants.

This is Donald Trump keeping his campaign promise to protect America for Americans and review immigration policies. Is this new? No. Over the years, America has always tried to control the influx of immigrants.  This was the case even under President Barack Obama. Trump reminds us of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act which turned back the Chinese, and a similar law in 1924, which targeted Asian and African immigrants, both of which were corrected by the Immigration Act of 1965, which forbids discrimination on the basis of national origin, ancestry and race.  The only problem is that Trump’s approach is crazy, a case of policy mixed with bigotry and narcissism, and an unconstitutional gambit which violates the First Amendment, hidden under the banner of “protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry.”  Given the contradictions between the 1952 and 1965 Acts and the First Amendment, Trump’s actions are perhaps better tested in the court of law.

He wants to build a wall at the Mexican border.  This has already caused a rift with Mexico. He is also holding radical Islam responsible for security breaches in the United States, and this is certainly because foreign-born Muslims have been responsible for many acts of terror in the US: the 9/11, the Boston bombing, the Nigerian underwear bomber; across Europe, radical Islamic extremism has also proven to be a problem.  Trump’s solution is to demonize Muslim-majority countries and arrive at the simple solution that the best way to protect America is to shut out the Muslims.  He insists that “This is not about religion – this is about terror and keeping our country safe. There are 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that is not affected by this order.” I don’t believe him.

The chosen seven countries that have been shut out have not in any way been responsible for most of the acts of terror in the US in recent times.  Trump leaves out Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and other Muslim-majority countries, but the kind of chaos that has been generated makes every Muslim going to the United States vulnerable. You don’t have to be from the seven targeted countries, once you bear a Muslim name, you could be subjected to greater scrutiny by Customs and Border Protection Officers.  Some of the people who have been harassed at the borders since last Friday when the Executive Order was passed are American citizens with dual nationality.

While Donald Trump is proposing greater vetting and scrutiny of the influx of Muslims, and refugees, he is nevertheless willing to allow more Christians into the United States. This is the message that comes across: Christians are welcome. Muslims should be carefully scrutinized before they are allowed in. In other words, Christians are better than Muslims.  This may sound like an over-simplification, but that is just how it is. President Trump is likely to make the United States more unpopular in the Muslim world, damage established friendships and promote a culture of hate that has proven a threat to American foreign relations in parts of the world.

American liberals are justifiably upset and angry. President Trump’s policy moves and rhetoric depart from the America they have known for the past 50 years.  But right now, America is so divided, nobody can comfortably sit on the fence, and that is why public opinion is so viciously divided too. Trump addresses the fears of those Americans who, like him, don’t want more immigrants and asylum seekers. This is the ultimate rise of American xenophobia and an attempt to turn that country into “a camp of saints.”  But there are limits to nativism as seen in Jean Raspail’s novel, The Camp of the Saints (1973) and The Slums of Aspen: Immigrants vs. The Environment (2011) by Lisa Park and David Pellow.

But no matter the tone of global outrage, Donald Trump obviously doesn’t give a damn. Mexico has cancelled a meeting with Trump, a protest calling for signatures to prevent his proposed state visit to the UK has attracted over a million signatures, Iran is threatening reciprocal action, the entire Muslim world is outraged and inside America, California is threatening to secede because of Trump! And Trump? He wants to be President of the United States, not President of the world. He wants to serve the American people who voted him into power, not some immigrants coming from the slums of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.  Across the world, there are millions who look up to the United States as the land of freedom. Trump is saying America is no longer ready to be the world’s Atlas nation.  It is not just immigration that will be affected: trade, aid, military relations as well.  This has created a regime of fear among many who depend on the United States.

There are millions of Africans living in the United States, particularly Nigerians.  They don’t all have the papers granting them the right of stay. There are asylum seekers, refugees and many who are still processing their residency papers. An American for Americans only policy is likely to place them at the risk of rejection and eventual deportation. When you talk to some of them, you can actually sense panic, fear, and despair. They panic because America has become their adopted home. It is their place of work, their source of hope, and the best place in the world where they are happiest.

They panic because their original homeland offers them little hope. They don’t want to return to a Nigeria where there is no regular power supply, employment opportunities, good roads, communications or transportation system. Living in America confers a special status on them among friends, family members and the community at home.  There are others who are already naturalized Americans, and who may have nothing to fear, and there are those Nigerians who have helped to build America with their talents and intellect, and who don’t really care on what side of the bed Donald Trump is likely to wake up tomorrow morning.

Then you have the big crowd of I-must-go-to-America-by-force set of Nigerians who are daily trooping to the American embassy in search of visa. Since the Executive Order by President Trump, that crowd has not been smiling at all. I know many of our compatriots who have suddenly become experts in analyzing American immigration rules.  Nigeria is not one of the seven countries on the Trump list and the review and restriction are supposed to last for 120 days, but long-time US visa applicants in Nigeria believe that what a typical American immigration officer has actually been looking for is a President like Trump. An inconsolable applicant tells me he is no longer sure he will ever get a visa to the United States.

I assured him that the world will always need America and America will always need the world.  Isolationism discounts the ideal of an interconnected global order.  President Donald Trump’s success will be determined in the long run, not by the arrows he shoots in the international arena from North Korea to China, to Mexico and Somalia, but how well he fulfils the promise to make America greater than he met it. If they don’t want you to stay in America, come home, please. Stay at home, e go better… or go to Canada or Taiwan.

19 Comments

  1. Truth

    January 31, 2017 at 10:36 am

    REUBEN ABATI, this is the worst article you have written in history. I think it’s the worst view you have ever held. You sound like a Muslim extremist or maybe a Christian hypocrite. Search your mind and return back to God. America is home for Americans not a home for a two-faced politician like you… Americans can decide to do whatever they like with their country and it’s not your business, unless you also want someone to tell you how to run your household (family) from outside. That’s exactly the message you are passing. You said you are not a Trump fan, that’s fine by us but then leave Trump alone to do his work. We are team Trump. We like him. You can follow Hillary Clinton your idol who is an anti-Christ and a supporter of the killing of innocent children like her mentor King Herod did. She is against God’s law with her friend Obama. Supporting early abortion and even late abortion…. that’s the kind of people you like, you can follow them. You can personally also make friends with Fulani Herdsmen and BokoHaram. That’s your cup of tea. You are gradually exposing your ideology…. and Nigerians are seeing exactly what you are. Don’t be surprised that America may turn out to be great again to your disappointment. Please search for God and repent. #TeamTrump

    • Lisa

      January 31, 2017 at 10:48 am

      Amen to that.

    • Diokpa

      January 31, 2017 at 12:20 pm

      @The Truth, I think you lost the message in his article. America is great today because she is home to diverse nationalities. Uncle Reuben, was just pointing out that some of Trump’s policies that are irrational will definitely kill America. Right now many individuals and Institutions in US are against Trump’s decision. The acting Attorney General was sacked by Trump because she directed the Justice Dept. Lawyers not to enforce the Executive Order on travel ban. Trump’s incompetence like PMB will soon be on full glare for all and sundry.

    • mamamia

      January 31, 2017 at 5:14 pm

      Agreed but it will be in full glare for American passport holders. Not Nigerians. All the killings that have happened by muslims in the north. What has been done. They should stay in their lane abeg. If you hate christians and you want to migrate, why not go and live in North Africa or the middle east. If you have extra ordinary talents and you’re a core muslim go and use it in the middle east. Jeez

    • meems

      January 31, 2017 at 1:07 pm

      This is such an ignorant comment. You make no sense because of the foolishness espoused here.

    • Onyii

      January 31, 2017 at 4:48 pm

      Because he sounded like a normal being unoioe you who can’t tolerate another religion and hate them because you believe they are all terrorists and that’s very ignorant of you because it is like saying everyone in the Niger delta area is a kidnapper or militant but because you are a dummybell with a bitter soul and heart since the 1973 armani collection.

  2. Ijs

    January 31, 2017 at 10:42 am

    People should build their own countries. Protest in your own countries. Africans stage a revolution against your own government that has been shitting you forever, Muslim leaders march and lend your voices against terrorism in your countries. Mexico build your own economy stop protesting and looking for the easy way out. You don’t see Trump cutting off the Uk and other countries on its level. A decision might affect individuals including me, but its great for America.

  3. A Real Nigerian

    January 31, 2017 at 11:36 am

    This Reuben Abati is a hypocritical, overrated, shameless, corrupt bottom-feeder without any shred of dignity.
    Your senseless article has not shed any light on anything. You had not said anything that people don’t already know.
    If you like use smooth language and cite some books, we see right through the two-faced, hollow charlatan that you are.
    People like this vile man here only join in on the Trump-hating bandwagon just to mend a damaged reputation.
    Imagine this man who stood and watched while his friends hoarded funds meant for the poor and neglected the Chibok Girls is saying s%%t. He has never sincerely spoken about the atrocities that went down during his buddy’s administration but he is here yappin about Trump.
    What a tragic, pitiful life you have.

    • A Real Nigerian

      January 31, 2017 at 11:37 am

      *have. ?

    • Onyii

      January 31, 2017 at 4:44 pm

      Overrated commenter.

    • Fowad

      March 5, 2017 at 10:04 am

      Yes, Real Nigerian

  4. Lolarae

    January 31, 2017 at 11:41 am

    uncle reuben usa is for americans and they can form their policies as they wish.

  5. NG

    January 31, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    The world needs a bit of shaking up. Trump for good or bad is doing that. That is what Americans chose. Let us just see how it all pans out.
    I believe the American system is resilient enough to withstand fall-outs from Trump’s actions as well as robust enough to take him out if the need arises.

    Naija people, face front and mind your own business.

  6. The Real Oma

    January 31, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    “This is the message that comes across: Christians are welcome. Muslims should be carefully scrutinized before they are allowed in. In other words, Christians are better than Muslims. This may sound like an over-simplification…”
    It IS an over-simplification.

    • Onyii

      January 31, 2017 at 4:43 pm

      Oya translate what it is madam. Mr A is welcome Mr B should be scrutinized before he comes to your house. Even your house help knows that A is preferred than B. Even your dog knows.

  7. Seun AA Number

    January 31, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    My own question is why can’t UAE ??,QATAR ,SAUDI ARABIA and those rich beautiful Islamic countries open their doors to thier Muslim brothers and sisters?this might be an ignorant thought ? but I just wonder…should it be US alone?

    • Onyii

      January 31, 2017 at 4:40 pm

      Very ignorant thought of course but lemme help you out. Is America a christain country? Nope.

      Imagine UAE not allowing christains in?

  8. Frank

    January 31, 2017 at 4:44 pm

    This fool needs to shut the f- up. You don’t know shit about shit. What if Americans decided to vote for Donald Trump, it’s non of your damn business if we chose Trump over Hilary. What the f- you should be concerned about is why did Nigerian Air Force drop bombs on an IDP camp and the Govt is not looking into this attrocity or why the fulani herdsmen are killing innocent Christians and the Govt is more concerned about why Big Brother Nigeria is being held in South Africa and not Nigeria. Or why Goodluck Jonathan and his band of 40 thieves stole Nigerians blind and no one being persecuted or gone to jail. It’s not non of your damn business who we Americans want as our president. We don’t about what you think or about your opinions. Fuck you and go mind your own damn Nigerian business you pathetic piece of shit. I wish I’d meet you in person someday so I can tell you to your face what I really think about you. I used to watch you on Channels TV back in the days and had so much respect for you then but ever since you decided to go join Jonathan and his 40 thieves, you lost all the respect I have for you. I’d be surprised if my comment is posted.

  9. Maurice Abiagom

    January 31, 2017 at 6:42 pm

    Not a fan of trump too…

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