Center for American Progress

Trump’s Reckless Muslim Ban Makes Americans Less Safe

Trump’s Reckless Muslim Ban Makes Americans Less Safe

No Americans have ever been killed in a terrorist attack in the United States by a national from the banned countries.

Protesters assemble at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Saturday, January 28, 2017, after two Iraqi refugees were detained while trying to enter the country. (AP/Craig Ruttle)
Protesters assemble at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Saturday, January 28, 2017, after two Iraqi refugees were detained while trying to enter the country. (AP/Craig Ruttle)

President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban not only has nothing to do with preventing terrorism, it also helps the Islamic State, or IS, and makes Americans less safe. According to data on terrorist attacks in the United States in the Global Terrorism Database compiled at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland, no American has ever been killed in a terrorist attack in the United States that has been carried out by a national of the now-banned countries. Since 1980, there have been 16 Islamist terrorist attacks in the United States that have killed Americans other than the perpetrator of the attacks. None of the perpetrators have been a national of the seven countries addressed in the ban: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen.

IS already is using the ban to drive a wedge between U.S. and Iraqi forces fighting the terrorist group on the ground in Iraq. Outrage and condemnation have rained down on the United States since Trump signed the order Friday afternoon. Trump has only been president for a week and he is already isolating the United States, emboldening IS, and endangering Americans lives.

Trump’s executive order stops all refugee resettlement for 120 days; suspends Syrian refugee resettlement indefinitely; and bars nationals from the seven banned countries from entering the United States for any reason for 90 days. This ban is inhumane, immoral, and a betrayal of American values. Slamming the door shut on refugees—the world’s most vulnerable citizens who are fleeing unspeakable violence—is cowardly and makes America look weak not strong. It recalls the shameful episode in the 1930s when the United States refused to accept Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution. Many of those who were denied entry to the United States ended up being murdered by the Nazis. The refugees now barred by Trump’s executive order may face similar fates.

The stated rationale of the ban is to prevent terrorists from entering the United States. Whatever Trump and his Republican allies may say, the ban will not accomplish this goal.

Even counting attacks that failed or were foiled during the execution of the plot, none were perpetrated by nationals of those seven countries. British citizen Richard Reid tried to detonate a bomb in his shoes onboard a U.S.-bound airplane in 2002. Pakistani national Shahawar Matin Siraj and American James Elshafay were arrested in the later stages of planning to attack the New York City subway during the 2004 Republican National Convention. Afghan Najibullah Zazi was arrested when he too was plotting attacks on the New York City subway. Nigerian Abdul Farouk AbdulMutallab was prevented by alert passengers from detonating a bomb in his underwear. And Pakistani Faisal Shazad was arrested after his car bomb failed to detonate in New York City’s Times Square.

In light of this data, it is hard to understand why the Trump administration chose these seven countries. Perhaps it as cynical as the fact that the Trump Organization does not have any known business ties in those seven countries. Whatever the rationale, Trump’s Muslim ban is already harming America’s security interests.

Indeed, the executive order comes at a time when American troops continue to fight alongside Iraqi soldiers in the fight against IS. A high-ranking Iraqi general said Trump’s order banning Iraqis from entering the United States “has caused massive disappointment in the hearts of every Iraqi who is fighting radicalism.” Moreover, this executive order follows President Trump’s repeated statements about taking Iraq’s oil. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, in response to these statements, has reassured his people that the oil is “the property of the Iraqis.” By issuing this executive order, President Trump has further strained the already complicated relationship with Iraq and created a wedge between U.S. troops and the allies and partners we need to fight IS. And IS is watching: Their propaganda channels are already pushing the line that the United States views Iraqi translators as “worthless.

Condemnation from key U.S. allies has poured in since Trump signed the order late on Friday. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson called the move “divisive and wrong,” and there is increasing pressure in the United Kingdom to cancel Trump’s upcoming state visit. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesperson said Merkel “regrets” the ban, and that fighting terrorism, “does not justify putting people of a specific background or faith under general suspicion.” France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said, “The reception of refugees fleeing the war, fleeing oppression, is part of our duties.” Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said, “Regional issues cannot be solved by closing the doors on people.”

Republican leaders, however, are lining up behind Trump’s reckless action. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said, “President Trump is right.” Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis were both critical of the Muslim ban when it was proposed by Trump during the campaign, yet both were present when Trump signed the order Friday. They own this.

Trump’s Muslim ban is destroying lives, causing untold damage to the security of the United States, and will not protect Americans from terrorist attacks. It must be withdrawn immediately.

Ken Gude is a Senior Fellow with the National Security Team at American Progress.

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Ken Gude

Senior Fellow