In 2015, then US presidential candidate Donald Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” despite this violating a number of provisions of the US Constitution, including laws governing equal protection and the right to due process.
During his first month in office, Trump turned his discriminatory and hateful rhetoric into policy, signing an executive order that banned visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Sudan – despite the fact that nationals of these countries had not carried out any deadly attacks on US soil.
Federal judges across the country ruled the travel ban to be nothing more than a naked attempt to discriminate against Muslims. In a revised version, Iraq was dropped from the list, but in March 2017, a US court blocked the ban again.
“The illogic of the government’s contentions is palpable. The notion that one can demonstrate animus toward any group of people only by targeting all of them at once is fundamentally flawed,” stated US District Judge Derrick Watson.
The Trump administration eventually issued a third, slightly watered-down version of the ban, which the Supreme Court has now upheld in a 5-4 vote. By ruling in favour of the ban, the five conservative judges have defied not only lower court judges, but also a slew of constitutional scholars throughout the US.
Essentially, the five conservative judges have determined that it is totally fine to discriminate against Muslims, so long as your prejudice is disguised by also targeting Venezuelans and North Koreans, who were covered by the third version of the travel ban. Moreover, the 5-4 ruling grants the president unprecedented power to shape and reshape immigration laws in any way he deems fit, effectively giving the country yet another big shove towards authoritarian rule.
Even worse, the ruling has institutionalised and codified Islamophobia into law for the first time in US history.
Even before today’s Supreme Court ruling, the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, a US-based human rights group, warned of “alarming parallels” between Trump’s America and Hitler’s Germany, suggesting that Trump’s targeting of democratic institutions and minorities mirrored the years leading up to the Holocaust.
Another cause for genuine alarm is the fact that the Supreme Court vindicated Trump’s Muslim ban based on concerns for “national security”. You don’t need to be a historian to know that a great majority of the world’s worst atrocities have been carried out in the name of “national security”, including the Soviet purges, the Holocaust, the US Japanese civilian internment camps and the campaigns of ethnic cleansing taking place in Myanmar, Palestine, Syria and elsewhere today.
In her dissent, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor slammed her five colleagues on the bench, writing:
“The United States of America is a nation built upon the promise of religious liberty … The court’s decision today fails to safeguard that fundamental principle. It leaves undisturbed a policy first advertised openly and unequivocally as a ‘total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States’ because the policy now masquerades behind a facade of national-security concerns.”
Moreover, the ban does nothing to address these so-called national security concerns, especially as many terrorist attacks carried out in the US today are perpetrated by white, right-wing, Christian men who identify and sympathise with Trump.
A recent report published for Congress by the Government Accountability Office found that of the 85 deadly attacks by violent extremists since 9/11, far-right violent groups were responsible for 73 percent, while “radical Islamist” extremists were responsible for 27 percent – a margin of almost three to one.
Moreover, an analysis of every terrorist attack carried out on US soil during the past 20 years revealed that Trump’s Muslim ban would have saved zero lives over this timeframe. Yes, you read that right – zero.
Preventing terrorism was never the aim of this ban, however. It was always about rewarding the Islamophobia industry for its patronage of Trump’s presidential campaign, along with the slice of white America that hates anyone and everyone who doesn’t look or sound like them.
Welcome to these Islamophobic United States of America. Discriminating against Muslims is now the law.
CJ Werleman is an opinion writer for Salon, Alternet, and the author of Crucifying America and God Hates You. Hate Him Back. Follow him on Twitter: @cjwerleman