Flashback: Blame Obama for the “Muslim Ban”

Authored by: Matt Palumbo

The Supreme Court recently upheld President Donald Trump’s travel ban executive order in a 5-4 opinion.

Trump’s initial executive order suspended entry of all refugees for 120 days and barred refugees from Syria indefinitely. It also prohibited practically all citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen from entering the United States for a period of 90 days. A later separate executive order expanding on the original ban added North Korea and Venezuela to the list of prohibited countries.

Because of the Muslim majority nations on the list, the travel ban has long been derided as a “Muslim ban” by critics, and that accusation has returned in light of the SCOTUS decision. That’s ridiculous for two reasons.

First; If the Travel Ban is a a Muslim Ban, It’s a Horribly Designed Muslim Ban

If Trump was aiming for a Muslim ban with the travel ban, he missed the countries with the most Muslims. Had Trump banned the six largest Muslim countries, he would’ve banned Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and Nigeria. In total, roughly 863 million Muslims would’ve been affected in such a scenario, according to statistics from World Atlas.

Instead, he banned Iraq (Muslim population: 81.5 million), Syria (19.3 million), Iran (81.5 million), Sudan (39 million), Libya (6.3 million), Somalia (9.2 million), and Yemen (27.8 million), for a total of 264 million Muslims affected. Estimates of the world’s Muslim population differ, but the Pew Research Center’s estimates would imply that Trump’s travel ban affects 12% of the world’s Muslim population, and the Supreme Court’s own ruling on the executive order said:

Yet that fact alone does not support an inference of religious hostility, given that the policy covers just 8% of the world’s Muslim population and is limited to countries that were previously designated by Congress or prior administrations as posing national security risks.

And more importantly….

Obama Wrote the Rules

With the exception of North Korea and Venezuela, each of the original six nations identified in the Trump travel ban were derived from a 2015 Obama-era law. The law, passed in December of 2015, contained provisions that restricted travel to the U.S. among those who visited or resided in Iraq, Sudan, or Syria, since March 2011. The law was later expanded to include Libya, Somalia, and Yemen.

Why those nations? Because Iran, Sudan, Syria, and North Korea are the only countries on the U.S. State Department’s list of “state sponsors of terrorism.,” while Iraq, Libya, Somalia and Yemen are on the State Department’s list of “terrorist safe havens.” North Korea was recently added to the list of “state sponsors of terrorism” in November of 2017, so it wasn’t included in Obama’s 2015 law. Venezuela’s inclusion in the travel ban is purely for political purposes, and only applies to select government officials.

Had Trump not added North Korea and Venezuela to the nations included in his travel ban, the list would’ve been composed 100% of Muslim countries, and it would’ve been 0% because of Trump’s own choosing.

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