Muslim Community Center Town Hall speakers report on #MuslimBan executive order, offer toolkit to resist

Khaled Beydoun (l.), Abed Ayoub (r.), American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, field questions from MCC audience.

An emergency town hall convened at the Muslim Community Center this Sunday at noon gave two speakers — Abed Ayoub of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), and Khaled Bhartoum, a law professor at  University of Detroit Mercy School of Law — a chance to explain the details of the outrageous anti-Muslim executive order published on Friday afternoon, and share advice about next steps with the largely American Muslim audience in attendance.

As is well known from the news, the executive order indefinitely barred Syrian refugees from entering the United States, suspended all refugee admissions for 120 days and blocked citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, refugees or otherwise, from entering the United States for 90 days: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen(New York Times). The ban includes dual nationals who have, e.g., an E.U. passport.

Questions and answers were extensive.  The key advice was that persons without U.S. citizenship and with passports from any of the listed countries should forego travel out of the U.S. in the next 90 days, or risk not being able to return.   Among the other answers:

  • Q: Should legal permanent residents (LPRs, a.k.a. “green card” holders) apply for citizenship?
    A: Yes – but not without advice from counsel, especially if they have even minor blemishes on their record.
  • Q: How can non-Muslim allies help?
    A: Support ADC and CAIR and other Muslim advocacy groups financially; visit Muslim Student Associations and other Muslim organizations and congregations, especially where they may feel isolated; and urge Congressmembers to stand against the ban.

Mr. Beydoun also remarked that American Muslims will need to “think of ourselves in very broad terms” and reach out to and support other communities likely to be targeted next, e.g., Latino and African Americans.

Perhaps the best summary of what Mr. Ayoub and Mr. Bhartoum were saying about the legal situation can be found in the ADC Immigrant and Muslim Ban ToolKit, linked from the ADC web site. The one pageA BREAKDOWN OF THE “MUSLIM BAN” – AN ADVOCACY TOOL FOR IMPACTED COMMUNITIES” is especially important and can be seen here:

Other points made during their discussion and the Q&A:

  • Different airport TSA’s may be interpreting the order differently; also the stays issued by the New York and Virginia judges are differently worded and specific.
  • Legal permanent residents (aka LPRs, aka “green card” holders) from other likely target countries who are overseas should accelerate their returns ‘before he tweets again.’
  • The notorious “religious minority” exception applies ‘only’ to refugee policy, not travel policy.
  • The ACLU win over the weekend (resulting in the New York stay) only got people out of detention here in the U.S. who were en route when the order was given; it did not resolve the limbo overseas travellers are in.

As the speakers explained, there was more that was bad about the executive order than made the headlines. In an executive order that’s ugly to begin with, one of the less noticed yet ugliest features requires the Department of Homeland Security to publish biannual counts of foreign nationals involved in crimes, ‘radicalizations’, material support to ‘terrorism-related’ organization deemed hostile to the U.S., gender-based violence, and ‘honor killings’ — the kind of official “enemy ‘other’ scorecard” last seen in Nazi Germany.

It also requires that entry applicants submit to an interview where their religious views are probed — blatantly discriminatory since ‘religious minorities’ from the listed countries are excluded, and blatantly unconstitutional since the interview questions reported so far amount to a religious test for entry to the U.S. (“How often do you pray?” etc.)  Mr. Beydoun advised sticking to “vague, general statements” to the effect that “the First Amendment guarantees me the right to the free exercise of my religion.”

Zainab Chaudry, CAIR

Zainab Chaudry, CAIR

The event, co-sponsored and publicized by the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), was very well attended, with at least a hundred audience members filling the hall MCC uses for educational events.

Before turning to Mr. Ayoub and Mr. Beydoun, town hall facilitator (and leader of the MCC Education Committee) Farhana Shah recognized County Councilmembers George Leventhal and Marc Elrich; both councilmembers affirmed their strong opposition to the executive order, and their commitment to not let Montgomery County cooperate in any way with government singling out the Muslim community.  Their very strong statements were warmly applauded at MCC and can be viewed below:

Summing up later, during the Q&A period, Councilmember Elrich said, “We’re not part of it, we’re not going to be part of it, and we’re going to try to figure out how to help.”  One idea the councilmembers mentioned was to advocate a local legal defense fund for residents caught in the gears of this and possible similar future executive orders.

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