By Rabbi Marc Schneier and Russell Simmons | 02/17/2017
As President Donald Trump signed his executive order two weeks ago ending all resettlement of refugees in U.S. for four months and placing an indefinite freeze on people arriving from seven Muslim majority countries, he claimed these draconian steps are necessary to keep out "radical Islamic terrorists". The President then declared ominously, "We don't want them here...We only want to admit into our country those who will support our country and deeply love our people."
In fact, there is no evidence that President Trump's poorly thought-through order will keep out any terrorists. Rather, what Trump has managed to accomplish is to bar from the U.S. thousands of innocent and desperate people-Muslims and others--who are themselves under imminent peril from being slaughtered by ISIS or Al-Qaeda in war-torn countries like Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya. Obscenely, among those who have been banned from entry to the U.S. are brave Iraqis who have risked their lives to serve as translators and contractors for the U.S. Armed Forces in Iraq.
Mr. Trump claims implausibly that his executive order "is not a Muslim ban". However, the sneering subtext to his remarks at the signing ceremony is that America does not want Muslim immigrants because Muslims cannot be trusted to love our country or make contributions to its welfare.
President Trump should tell that to Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni, a world-renowned Algerian-born American physician, radiologist and biomedical engineer who was appointed by President George W. Bush as the 15th Director of the National Institutes of Health; serving from 2002 until 2008. Does President Trump seriously mean to imply that Dr. Zerhouni is not worthy of the respect he has earned for his protean accomplishments because he is an immigrant from a Muslim country?
What about Imam Mohamed Magid, the spiritual leader of the All-Dulles Area Muslim Society, one of America's largest and most vibrant mosques, who emigrated here from Sudan? Imam Magid, who has worked closely with the FBI to prevent radicalization of American Muslim youth, recently spoke at the Interfaith Prayer Service at the National Cathedral attended by President Trump. Would Mr. Trump dare to suggest that Imam Magid is not a loyal American because he happens to hail from one of the seven countries proscribed in his executive order?
How, we wonder, does Mr. Trump relate to Farooq Kathwari, President and CEO of Ethan Allen? In addition to his accomplishments in the business world, the Kashmiri-born Kathwari has served as Chairman of Refugees International, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and in 2007 was awarded the Outstanding American by Choice Award from the Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice. Would the President suggest that the award to Kathwari should be revoked because Muslim immigrants cannot be trusted to love and support America?
There are many more Muslim immigrants the two of us know personally who have made signal contributions to America. We think of Akon, a hip-hop star from Senegal, who has given so many young Americans enjoyment and inspiration through his music. There is Daisy Khan, an immigrant from Kashmir and founder of WISE Muslim Women, who is the initiator of a soon-to-be released study that elucidates the stark differences between genuine Islamic theology and extremist ideology and offers a road map for preventing extremist recruitment. There is our dear friend Imam Shamsi Ali, born in a remote village in Indonesia, who has risen an acclaimed spiritual leader in New York with a message of love and inclusion. And we think of Khizr and Ghazala Khan, originally from Pakistan; whose son Humayan sacrificed his life in Iraq to save his fellow U.S. Army servicemen and women from a roadside bomb, and who themselves have inspired countless people of all backgrounds by courageously speaking truth to power.
All of the above-mentioned people are Muslim immigrants who have proven through their life's work that they truly 'support our country and deeply love our people.' It is high time President Trump should acknowledge-perhaps through a series of tweets-that these American patriots and untold thousands of other Muslim immigrants from all walks of life are improving the quality of life of all Americans.