Donald Trump’s Executive Order Is Not a “Muslim Ban”

I was supposed to post this by end of January but procrastinated a little bit. Decided to write on this “Trump Muslim Ban” that has been overly politicised in my opinion.

It disturbs me a lot when I see my friends on Facebook sharing news articles with titles or captions containing the words “Trump ‘Muslim Ban'”. This is serious because the term used commonly on social media has materialised into something people say every day.

Friends and people around me know I study international politics and some of them will casually strike up conversations about world politics just to hear my views. However, whenever they open their mouths, it just gets me real mad.

“So… bro… what do you think of Trump’s ‘Muslim Ban’?”

No no no no no no no no… This is not a freaking Muslim ban for Pete’s sake. The seven countries have a Muslim-majority population. Barring them from entering the United States based on this premise constitutes a super weak argument. It is weak because there are still many Muslim countries that are not banned.

I am not going to explain how it got to this stage. Long story short: mass media and activists. Oh, one more, the ignorant majority.

So back to the question, why is this not a doctrine against the Muslims?

Firstly, the underlying basis of reasoning to ban the seven countries was neither race nor religion. The seven countries were already on Obama’s list during his second term. You can read more here. Obama tightened visa policies to these seven countries during his term under the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 after the Paris attack. Thus, it is fair to say that Obama had prejudices against Muslims as well if one wants to accuse Donald Trump of the same thing. As mentioned earlier, there may be some kind of link here, but the fact remains that the argument is not convincing. Hence, both Obama’s and Trump’s opposition against the seven countries were not because they are strictly against the Muslims.

This argument can be brought further to the refugee ban. Similarly, the United States of America’s opposition to accepting refugees was also not simply it is a Muslim issue. Geographically speaking, the US is not directly affected by the refugee crisis happening at the Southeast of Europe. Many of US’s refugees are political asylums seekers. Whatever it is, it is not a huge issue because these numbers, relative to the population of US, is meagre. The role of media plays a part in exaggerating the negative consequences. Every year, there are bound to be people who have their refugee or asylum-seeking applications rejected. Mass media were able to magnify the issues and associate all with the ‘Muslim Ban’. Thus, what I am trying to say is that these are actually regularities but treated like anomalies, thanks to “online social justice warriors” and the news outlets.

Another reason why this is not a ‘Muslim Ban’ is an obvious one. There are still many countries which have a Muslim majority but are not ‘ban’. Lebanon, Turkey, Kuwait, Malaysia, Indonesia… There are still a few more and I am not going to name them all – you get the idea. There are a few refutes to this claim of mine. Some mentioned it could be because of Trump Organisation’s business interests. However, this cannot explain not banning Indonesia and Malaysia. Another refutation suggests that probably Trump is ignorant and not aware of all the Muslim majority countries, especially Southeast Asia. Well, one thing I can be sure is that he can google it and look it up on Wikipedia. Assume that he cannot or he simply refused to, he has tens of thousands of people working for him and anyone could simply give him a hand. His chief of staff could also put it up a “list of Muslim Countries” and pin it up on all the notice boards in the White House.

Now that I have established that it is not a ban against Muslims, then what could possibly explain his rationale.

Explained in this video by John Green, there were just too many variations of interpretation of the executive order floating around. This is nothing more than just incoherent, inconsistent and mindless decision-making by Trump. Perhaps he could be confused or unclear. That is all there is to it. Recall the first few months at your first job, it takes time to get used to how things work. I believe that Trump’s current issue is coherence. His staff and himself tend to have different answers to the same questions. One example is the green card confusion. The administration required some down time to discuss and lay out the details before releasing the final statement to the public.

Overall, the ‘Muslim Ban’ was heavily politicised and overrated. It caught the attention of some social media influencers to start posting about their support for Muslims which was honestly just a way to increase their view counts and fan base. They disgust me. At this juncture, the federal judge has blocked President Trump’s executive orders. Instead of trying to be angry, hyped or excited over the ‘Muslim Ban’, or rant about how he behaves like a tyrant, now is the time we assess the checks and balances of this highly regarded democracy and their democratic institutions at work.

Conversation with Dr Maliki Osman @ Asia-Europe Meeting 11 Ulaanbaatar

Dr Maliki Osman
Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Defence
Mayor South-East District
Member of Parliament – East Coast GRC

Last Saturday (16/07/16), Dr Maliki Osman took time off his busy schedule to meet me towards the end of the ASEM summit. It was arranged with our Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) through the ASEF Education Team (ASEFedu). Really grateful towards Leonie and her team for organising the entire Model ASEM and coordinating with our respective MFAs for such meetings to happen. You guys would have to see it with your own eyes to believe the magic and miracles they had performed with a small team of 3 and an intern, Su Chen. To pull off an event on such scale, truly incredible.

He started off with very straightforward questions, in a casual and friendly tone. After living and constantly conversing with non-Singaporeans for the past 10 days, his familiar accent made me feel connected instantly without having much small talks, which spared us the awkwardness otherwise. He asked basic questions regarding where am I studying, when did I ORD and etc. I remember him apologising Leonie with a chuckle, explaining himself in Singlish that these are standard questions of a Singaporean Men. Indeed, I smiled in agreement because we always do that whenever we meet other Singaporean men, don’t we?

Shortly after Leonie and her co-worker, Lieke, introduced themselves and ASEFedu to Dr Maliki, the topic then shifted towards Singapore’s foreign policy and Asia-Europe relations. Below is the gist of our 30mins conversation.

First, he mentioned that he doesn’t hesitate to caution others when foreign officials speak of Singapore as the model of development. His exact words were “we can do what we can do because we are small.” Having a relatively small piece of land is one of the main reason why we become successful. It is relatively easier to control and manage as compared to countries with large land size. What works for us may not work for others. He mentioned that rather, we usually work with other governments to train their country officials. Furthermore, they bring businessmen and industrial leaders abroad to learn about the country and their constraints. This will also facilitate knowledge exchange and deeper understanding of various markets.

Since a large part of the income is from the private sector, it is hence important for the public sector, or government, to create ad ensure a business-friendly environment for businesses to grow. Singapore is known to be one of the most business-friendly countries in the world. This is why other than just increasing private investment abroad, Singapore also helps to improve the public administration of countries in our region. Private sector tends to be more stable and sustainable with a stronger government – probably also another main reason for our growth.

Regarding Singapore’s position to issues generally, he said I was right in pointing out the balanced approach where we don’t take hard stances. However, he added on that sometimes we would stand up to bigger countries when we need to, in order to defend what is good for Singapore and Singaporeans. We should not just be condemning acts of hostilities and aggression. Rather, it is often more important to think what else we can or should do – concrete actions. With that, I know that Singapore is in good hands for our international relations.

He then also spoke about being a mayor in South-East district and the importance of promoting community development. He was referring to all countries, including Singapore which more work can be done. Grassroots and civil society can take a more active role in community development. He raised the example of the recent Nice incident to explained the lack of community engagement. Wrongdoers of such incidents tend to live in isolation and have minimal social interaction or lack engagement with people around them. To reaffirm his statement earlier regarding concrete actions, he maintained that the way forward would be asking ourselves what can we do for these people. Thus, he concluded that we should be at a level where whenever a potential wrongdoer wants to bring harm to the civil society, he would really think twice.

Asking him on what Singapore hopes to achieve from this summit, he brought up the talk between Singapore and Mongolia to allow Singapore visitors to stay up to 30 days without a visa. He explained that 2 weeks is too short for people to understand a country and increasing it to 30 days also provides more flexibility in their itinerary. This could potentially attract more Singaporeans to visit Mongolia which boosts tourism and enables us to have an even better understanding of Mongolian culture, history and heritage. Industrial leaders and business partners also have much to gain from this.

To end off, I expressed that I wish to invite him as a speaker for Model ASEM Singapore 2016 in December this year. He gave a warm smile and I guess he looks forward to it as much as we all do.

Once again, thank you ASEFedu for the opportunity. Looking forward to future opportunities.