A Mus­lim ban by any other name

The Aurora (Labrador City) - - Editorial - Thom Barker

It took a year-and-a-half, but the pres­i­dent of the United States fi­nally has his Mus­lim ban.

Okay, it is not tech­ni­cally a Mus­lim ban, which is how the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and its lawyers fi­nally con­vinced the Supreme Court — or a ma­jor­ity of jus­tices thereon — that the law is con­sti­tu­tional.

If there is any good news here, it is that the oft-touted checks and bal­ances of the Amer­i­can sys­tem ap­pear to still be work­ing, some­what. Even as stacked as the ju­di­cial branch is with Repub­li­cans, the court did rule against the Mus­lim ban twice and is os­ten­si­bly sup­posed to op­er­ate on the ba­sis of le­gal­ity, not per­sonal val­ues — although it ar­guably never has ac­cord­ing to some schol­ars.

The bad news, on the other hand, is abun­dant.

In a 5-4 rul­ing, the ma­jor­ity de­cided the third it­er­a­tion of the ex­ec­u­tive or­der lim­it­ing travel from Iran, Libya, Syria, So­ma­lia, Ye­men, North Korea and Venezuela does not vi­o­late the re­li­gious free­dom prin­ci­ples of the First Amend­ment. In do­ing so, Chief Jus­tice John Roberts et al. ig­nored Don­ald Trump’s long his­tory of an­tiMus­lim rhetoric, in­clud­ing his elec­tion prom­ise to en­act “a to­tal and com­plete shut­down of Mus­lims en­ter­ing the coun­try.”

Writ­ing for the dis­sent­ing side, Jus­tice So­nia So­tomayer ar­gued the in­tent of the law is clearly an ef­fort to up­hold that elec­tion prom­ise de­spite the fact it does not men­tion Mus­lims specif­i­cally and there are (now) two non-Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­tries on the list.

She called out her col­leagues for hypocrisy not­ing they had no prob­lem con­sid­er­ing the spirit of leg­is­la­tion in rul­ing for a Colorado baker who re­fused to make a wed­ding cake for a gay cou­ple but deemed it ir­rel­e­vant in this case.

Not sur­pris­ingly, there is a great deal of un­help­ful hy­per­bole from the ex­treme side of the op­po­si­tion con­flat­ing the new law with the in­tern­ment of Ja­panese-Amer­i­cans dur­ing the Sec­ond World War and even with the ex­ter­mi­na­tion of Jews dur­ing the Holo­caust.

This is a long way from that as it does not tar­get Mus­lim cit­i­zens of the United States who are cur­rently in the coun­try. Of course, that doesn’t mean it is not a pre­lude to more dras­tic mea­sures.

I am not a fan of slip­pery slope ar­gu­ments, though. More fre­quently, we do not slide to the bot­tom, but man­age to shore it up be­fore worse comes to worst. Amer­i­can vot­ers, for ex­am­ple, typ­i­cally re­store the bal­ance of power in mid-term elec­tions. We will see in a few short months.

What is truly disturbing here, is the rul­ing’s po­ten­tial for nor­mal­iz­ing fear and ha­tred of “the other” and what it says about how far Amer­ica has de­scended into the rab­bit-hole of po­ten­tial tyranny.

Despotic regimes through­out his­tory have re­lied on scape­goat­ing to rally sup­port and con­sol­i­date power.

If I was in­clined to give Trump credit for com­plex thought, I might con­clude that pro­duc­ing some­thing as rep­re­hen­si­ble as the first ex­ec­u­tive or­der was strate­gic, that the end goal was al­ways this ver­sion, but he wanted to soften up the op­po­si­tion first. Re­gard­less of whether he was proac­tively strate­giz­ing or fly­ing by the seat of his pants, it is an­other ex­am­ple of out­ra­geous be­hav­iour nor­mal­iz­ing what would have been un­think­able even un­der pre­vi­ous Repub­li­can ad­min­is­tra­tions.

Cer­tainly, the third ver­sion of the Mus­lim ban, on its face, and ac­cord­ing to five SCOTUS jus­tices, is less shame­ful than the pre­vi­ous two. And, while there is still hard-core op­po­si­tion, polls show enough of the soft op­po­si­tion is will­ing to ac­cept this as a rea­son­able com­pro­mise that is po­lit­i­cally ten­able.

That is how nor­mal­iza­tion works.

As the 18th cen­tury Bri­tish par­lia­men­tar­ian Ed­mund Burke ob­served, “The only thing nec­es­sary for the tri­umph of evil is for good men to do noth­ing.”

This de­ci­sion jus­ti­fies the largely un­founded fear of Mus­lims specif­i­cally, and im­mi­grants in gen­eral. It nor­mal­izes big­otry in the name of national se­cu­rity.

The hu­man rights abuses cur­rently be­ing vis­ited upon refugees, es­pe­cially in­no­cent chil­dren — and even some Amer­i­can cit­i­zens get­ting caught up in the Trumpin­duced hys­te­ria — by U.S. Immigration and Cus­toms En­force­ment (ICE) would have been un­con­scionable even a few short years ago.

In ad­di­tion to aban­don­ing the prin­ci­ples of a na­tion that once pro­claimed to the world “Give me your tired, your poor, your hud­dled masses yearn­ing to breathe free…” Trump is alien­at­ing tra­di­tional al­lies and align­ing the United States with au­to­cratic regimes such as Rus­sia and North Korea.

Who is go­ing to stand up to a new world or­der in which the great­est su­per­power in his­tory is no longer on the side of demo­cratic val­ues and moral­ity?

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