Editorial: Muslim ban arbitrary and foolish

Protesters assemble at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Saturday. Earlier in the day two Iraqi refugees were detained while trying to enter the country. Photo / Craig Ruttle
Protesters assemble at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Saturday. Earlier in the day two Iraqi refugees were detained while trying to enter the country. Photo / Craig Ruttle

All governments who consider their countries to be friends and allies of the United States are going to have to work out how to respond to the new regime in Washington.

Should they react to arbitrary and unjust actions such as the ban on visits by citizens of seven Muslim countries by taking a moral stand, as New Zealand's Labour Party leader suggests? Or should it speak as cautiously as the Prime Minister did on Monday?

Bill English was probably glad he had tread carefully when the position of dual citizens was clarified yesterday. The US Embassy reversed its initial advice and said New Zealand citizens who also held citizenship of the seven countries would be permitted to enter the US.

Its other partners in the "Five Eyes" alliance, the UK, Canada and Australia, had this information several days before New Zealand but English says it is not an exemption limited to the intelligence partners.

He understands it is a broad exemption for all citizens of the unfortunate seven who have a dual nationality.

Nevertheless, Andrew Little thinks the Prime Minister should be making louder statements in condemnation of the ban, as he no doubt would be. And rightly so.

Citizens of the seven countries targeted by Donald Trump in the name of preventing terrorism have not been known to previous cause terrorism in the US, and countries whose citizens have been involved in attacks on US soil - notably Saudi Arabia - are not in the ban.

The policy is not only arbitrary, it is foolish. It hands Muslims everywhere - not just those in the seven banned countries - one more grudge against the US. And it does so, it appears, for no better reason than Trump constantly promised during his election campaign to ban Muslim immigration "until we find out what the hell is going on".

His ban on entry for citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen will expire in 90 days, presumably by which time the new administration considers it will have worked out what is causing so much antagonism to the US in Muslim countries.

The "temporary" ban was so poorly considered and hastily imposed that airports were thrown into chaos and US diplomats embarrassed and confused. It was a bit harsh of Foreign Minister Murray McCully to give his officials a public dressing down on the dual citizenship error yesterday when the US embassy in Wellington was giving out the wrong information as late as Tuesday night.

Bill English was fairer to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. "The US Administration has been working hard to clarify the policy themselves," he said. It was frustrating to have so little information, he agreed.

"But that is probably a frustration shared by pretty much every country in the world." It is fairly obvious Trump is making decisions on impulse and his staff are having to make up the details as they go. As the BBC has said, it is "amateur hour in the White House".

This was implicit in the concern of those who said Trump was ill-suited and ill-prepared for public office. But there he is, and other governments need to work out what the hell is going on.

- NZ Herald

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