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There is No 'Muslim Ban'


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Consider the following scenario. 

A classroom full of children is kept late, missing the start of lunchtime, because of poor behaviour. This class has a record of such, and the headmaster – a boorish man with little regard for nuance – is all for giving every one of the 40 children a detention. 

Others in the staffroom object to this, believing that much of the trouble can be blamed on just seven students. Work was carried out, under the headmaster’s predecessor, to identify the difficult individuals and a policy has already been drawn up. 

The headmaster does not much care to argue the point, for there are many more pressing matters that occupy his time and, to the extent that he has one, his mind. So he accepts the limitation and tasks his deputies to deal with it quickly whilst he sits down to work on a new, school-wide ‘code of conduct’.

The next day, the same class causes trouble. Their teacher, empowered by this temporary order, releases all but the seven perpetrators. She knows that several of those she has released are actually responsible for the trouble, but as their parents are on the school’s governing council she thinks it wise to overlook their misdeeds. She informs the seven that they are not to come to class tomorrow, and will sit their lessons in a separate room under the tutelage of the school’s loud and sadistic PE teacher. Additionally, they are each to receive detention for one week.

Knowing that one of the seven has a troubled home-life, the teacher sits him aside and informs him that his parents are to be brought in so that they may discuss the best way to solve the problem.

The teacher sends the boys away; the new measures will take effect immediately.

The next day, one of the headmaster’s professional rivals – whom he has very recently beaten to promotion – calls her friend at the local newspaper. She informs them that, because of trouble in the school, the headmaster has placed every child in detention for a whole year! She tells the reporter that she believes he has done this because most of the school is of an ethnic minority, and previous statements made by the headmaster have given her cause to suspect him of racial prejudice. She states that those students who are white and British are getting preferential treatment, and that the ban itself is evidence that her suspicions were well-founded.

The newspaper goes to print. Parents are outraged. They organise protests. The national newspapers cover the story, and each runs headlines containing the word “racist ban.” This becomes a popular refrain on social media.

Now, one might find much to disagree with in the actions of the headmaster. One might, at the same time, deplore the brazen lies told by the headmaster’s rival and repeated unquestioningly by the local and national newspapers. The headmaster, though an oaf, has not done what the papers claim he has done. And one sees that, quite obviously, it is possible to hold the view that lies have been told to make the headmaster’s policy seem very much worse than it actually is.

But it would seem that, in this age of political hypochondria, it is no longer possible to insist on the facts without being accused of appeasement. (Indeed, the word ‘appeasement’ is chosen quite deliberately, for those who deploy it are well aware of its connotations.)

Never mind that President Trump’s ‘Muslim Ban’, like the whole-school detention, is nothing of the sort. Never mind that, of the 50 countries in the world with populations that are majority-Muslim, only seven are the subject of the executive order, or that of the ten most populous Muslim-majority nations, only one – Iran – falls under its purview.

Indeed, never mind that much of the order expires in just 90 days, and that it is intended as a temporary measure put in place whilst legislation is drawn up to institute a wholesale change in the immigration system. Never mind that Barack Obama, elevated now to a status approaching sainthood, first drew up this executive order and imposed a moratorium on new visa applications for Iraqi citizens during the height of that country’s civil war, or that the majority of asylum applications processed by the United States for displaced peoples’ of the Middle East originate from those countries – Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen – on which the Obama administration waged various forms of war.

Never mind that federal immigration law grants to the executive powers, which include discriminating against migrants on grounds of national origin, which can be exercised at the will and whim of the self-same executive if they are deemed necessary for the national interest. Never mind, then, that the bulk of the executive order is perfectly legal and has a long-established precedent. (Jimmy Carter imposed the same ban on Iran during the hostage crisis of the late ‘70s.) And never mind that, where the order has overstepped the bounds of legality – deportations, the exemptions for religious minorities – the courts have upheld the law and the effects of the order have been curtailed.

The system is being tested and all evidence suggests that it is coping well; the evidence suggests, too, that Donald Trump is being kept in check by shady figures working in the labyrinthine corridors of the Deep State, just like his predecessors. For what other reason would the ban exempt Saudi Arabia and Egypt, say, from whence the suicide-murderers of 9/11 originated? Rudi Giuliani, one of Trump’s most prominent surrogates, has recently confirmed this suspicion.

No, never mind all that. We mustn’t heed these facts. President Trump, and his order, is clearly racist. No, that’s not enough; President Trump is clearly a fascist, and the executive order represents the first stages of the coming Final Solution. It must, then, be resisted with petitions and angry posts on social media, and protest marches where ‘liberal’ and ‘radical’ Western women voluntarily put on the garb that actually liberal and actually radical women in the Islamic world are fighting and dying for the right to remove.

Might we not at least aspire to think properly, and retain (or regain) a sense of perspective and proportion? Is it no longer possible to say that something is wrong without elevating it to the status of uppermost evil?

This compulsion that presently infects our society is spectacularly dangerous; it is not so much a boy crying wolf as a boy activating a nuclear alarm siren. By claiming that every small thing is the biggest and most dangerous threat the world has faced in modern times, we focus so much of our attention on them that many more things, of equivalent or even greater maleficence, go by unnoticed.

And by screaming “fascism!” at everything we consider illiberal, we de-sensitise ourselves to the very serious connotations of that word, and deprive ourselves of a means to call out actual fascism for what it is.

George Orwell wrote on this subject in a 1944 edition of Tribune. He said: “It will be seen that, as used, the word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless. In conversation, of course, it is used even more wildly than in print. I have heard it applied to farmers, shopkeepers, Social Credit, corporal punishment, fox-hunting, bull-fighting, the 1922 Committee, the 1941 Committee, Kipling, Gandhi, Chiang Kai-Shek, homosexuality, Priestley's broadcasts, Youth Hostels, astrology, women, dogs and I do not know what else.”

He went on to ask: “Why, then, cannot we have a clear and generally accepted definition of it? Alas! we shall not get one — not yet, anyway. To say why would take too long…  All one can do for the moment is to use the word with a certain amount of circumspection and not, as is usually done, degrade it to the level of a swearword.”

In these times of great alarm and greater overreaction, I think we would do well to heed his advice.

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