Response to John Kurtz

Muskan Mumtaz ’19
Guest Columnist

Two weeks ago, John Kurtz defended Trump’s Muslim Ban in his piece “Three Fictions About Trump’s Immigration Order.” I argue that Trump’s executive order is in fact discriminatory against Muslims, and that comparing this ban with Obama’s anti-terror efforts is like comparing a hammer with a scalpel.


Trump’s Executive Order is a Muslim Ban


            Kurtz argues that the executive order is not a Muslim ban because because the act “does not come even close to preventing all Muslims from entering the United States.” It is a well established principle of constitutional law that an equal protection violation does not need to extend to an entire group of people. That has never been the equal protection standard. If, for example, a government-run national park decided it wanted to cap how many African Americans it let in, that would be a clear equal protection violation. If a park ranger denied one African American entry, and then allowed five African Americans in, that does not change the fact that the first African American was subjected to discrimination. The same goes for this ban. The language and intent of the ban indicate that Muslims are the targeted group of this act.


            Kurtz also argues that the ban is based on national origin and not religious identity. This is false. Trump has made clear that Christian refugees from Syria are welcome, while Muslim refugees are not.[1] The prioritization of one group of Syrians over another group based solely on their religious beliefs makes clear that this ban is about religion, not national identity. Furthermore, Trump and the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel also released a statement that Jews from the banned countries are exempt from the ban.[2] So Yemeni Jews are allowed in, but Yemeni Muslims are not. The baseline here is not how many Muslims are still allowed, but how Muslims immigrants are being treated compared to non-Muslim immigrants.


            Finally, Trump made his intentions clear time and time again throughout his campaign as he called for a “complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”[3] You can only argue that this act is facially neutral to a certain point--and that point is Trump’s statements and tweets calling for a ban based on religious identity. Even Giuliani has gone on record and said that “President Trump wanted a ‘Muslim ban’ and requested he assemble a commission to show him “the right way to do it legally.”[4] Instead of recognizing the act for what it is and what is was promised to be, my fellow Americans are going to great lengths to justify a blatantly un-American, discriminatory act that will surely be remembered as a dark moment in our history.




These restrictions on immigration are unprecedented and unconstitutional


            Kurtz also argues that Obama’s immigration policies set the precedent for Trump’s Muslim ban. What we have here is the difference between a hammer and a scalpel. Obama did call for a slowing down of immigrants from Iraq and Iran in response to a discrete set of episodes, but he never called for a ban on a specific religious group nor did he prioritize refugees based on their religion. The 9th Circuit Court halted Trump’s ban for that very reason--the order is not a response to acts, and it has been implemented with no ground in facts.


            The difference between Obama’s policies and Trump’s policy is not a difference in degree, but a difference in kind. Trump is calling for an absolute ban on refugees who have been subject to years of vetting, and in the wake of the order, even Muslim green card holders were denied entry into the U.S. Furthermore, the American Embassy in India denied Muslim Indian athletes visas to attend a tournament, citing “current policies.”[5] While Obama’s policy played out by halting and then slowing down immigration based on national origin from Iraq and Iran, Trump’s policies are affecting Muslims worldwide—including green card holders who have lived in the U.S. for years. We cannot equate the two.


            Although I am limiting my discussion of executive order to the legal aspects here, I am more than happy to discuss the act in the context of America-Middle East relations and how it plays into the age old Orientalist narratives of other-ing, war mongering, and xenophobia. Feel free to email me at