Trump’s first days: What it means for the Middle East

Build Bridges Not Walls

Two of Trump’s first initiatives regarding the Middle East send chills down my spine. As a United States’ citizen working toward fostering better relations between America and the Middle East, I would like to share my initial thoughts on Trump’s plan to ban Muslim’s from obtaining visas to the US and potentially moving the US embassy in Israel from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem.

First, his plan to restrict access to the United States from immigrants, refugees, and some visa holders from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. As a student of the Political Science and Middle Eastern studies, discriminating entrance to the United States based on religion is a huge step in the wrong direction towards domestic safety and global peace generally. As a country that is pillared by the openness and opportunity for any hard working individual to make a successful life in America, the essence of this restriction says, yes of course, “except if your Muslim because you are an inherent threat to America.” This is not the America I know and love.

When considering the litany of damage we have done to the Middle East through our flamboyant foreign policy, we are now emphatically reaffirming our attitude of hate and disrespect to one of the most populous regions in the world. I recognize American fears of terrorism and unpredictable violence, these are real concerns, but we can not generalize the radical ideas of few onto a whole population, 1.6 billion people (or nearly 1/4th of the world’s population), to be precise. In fact, most recent instances of terrorism in America have been conducted by disenfranchised US/European citizens that feel helpless to the unfounded discrimination and destruction Trump and his supporters promote, not Arabs or immigrants from the Middle East. Moreover, according to Global Research, only 10% of terror attacks on American soil have been conducted by Muslims. Yet here we are on the brink of isolating ourselves from 1/4th of the worlds population.

This Muslim ban and potential Muslim registry is extremely discriminatory and will only have an adverse effect on curbing threat to America. ISIS loves Trump. He fuels their fire and propaganda of the United States as a hateful and evil nation. Except this is not propaganda. This is a real measure, real action, that highlights to the rest of the world our intolerance of others. In one swift motion of the pen, Trump will crumble America’s (remaining) prestige as a global protector and beacon of hope.

Please make your opposition to the Muslim ban heard here:

Next, and equally horrifying, is Trump and his new US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman’s verbal statement of intent toward moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel-Aviv. For those unfamiliar with the Israel-Palestinian conflict, Jerusalem is the declared capital of both countries with intense religious significance to both Jews and Muslims (and Christians). Historically, Jerusalem has been regarded as an internationally mandated city by the UN with the freedom for both Muslims and Jews to mutually enjoy its religious significance. Since the War of 1967, Israel has enjoyed the majority of Jerusalem’s spoils and maintained its tense grip on the Palestinian territory.

The United States has repeatedly supported Israel’s occupation of Palestinian despite international consensus on its illegality and continual disruption to peace and stability in the Middle East. Our embassy has remained in Tel-Aviv out of respect for the potential of a two-state solution with an internationally sanctioned shared Jerusalem. Moving the United States embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem will be another dagger in the hearts of Palestinians who still cling to the partition promise of the United Nations that they will one day live with autonomy and freedom. One leading Palestinian authority claimed such a move would be viewed as “a declaration of war” on Muslims. Such an action must not be taken lightly and I sincerely hope Trump and his team thoroughly assess the holistic impact it will have on the region, including Americans like myself living in the Middle East.

If you are interested in reading more, Ramzy Baroud of Al-Jazeera recently outlined the potential negative ramifications of a decision to move the embassy much more eloquently and concisely than I can. While his thoughts are liberally biased, he has a much deeper understanding of the situation on the ground and I think the consequences he notes are very valid.

As we naturally strive to a more interdependent planet, we can not continue to undermine our credibility as a stabilizing and equitable force in the world. The ban on Muslims and potential decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem may seem unrelated, but they stem from the same fear based discrimination towards Muslims circulating America’s politics. These decisions will only incite more violence and instability. I hope we can understand these discriminatory practices are outdated and not a solution for long term peace both domestically and in the Middle East.