Indian student Gnana Subramaniam speaks to a crowd during a “Rally for Diversity” on the campus of the University of Oklahoma in Norman, in reaction to the president’s executive order temporarily banning citizens from seven nations to enter the U.S., on Monday. Paul Hellstern/The Oklahoman
President Donald Trump says his temporary suspension of travel from seven Middle Eastern nations is about keeping Americans safe and not about religion, but Oklahoma Muslims are not buying it.
A Trump executive order banned entry of refugees to the U.S. for 120 days, banned Syrian refugees indefinitely, and halted travel to the U.S. for 90 days from Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen and Iran.
“This is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting … this is about terror and keeping our country safe,” Trump said in a statement, as the backlash against his executive order sparked widespread outrage and protests over the weekend.
But Imam John Ederer of the Islamic Society of Tulsa said the Tulsa Muslim community “sees this as a Muslim ban, based upon the facts.”
He pointed out that Trump in his campaign called for a ban on Muslims traveling to the United States, and that none of the terrorists who have attacked the United States were from the seven nations.
“We are appalled … We are outraged. We are resisting … We will protest until this is stopped,” he said.
“It’s just to make us very uncomfortable. It’s turning us into second-class citizens … It is very much what was done to the Jews in Germany.
“This is crazy. This is not America.”
Dr. Kamran Abbasi, a physician at Hillcrest Hospital in Claremore and outreach director for the Islamic Society of Tulsa, said the ban caused fear and anger in the Muslim community.
“A lot of people feel like we’re being targeted. Although President Trump has said this is not meant to be a Muslim ban, the feeling is naturally otherwise, because of the countries which have been named.”
Abbasi said he would have concerns about traveling to his native Pakistan.
“I would hope as an American citizen, I wouldn’t, but I think reality would say otherwise,” he said.
Members of the state’s congressional delegation put out statements supporting Trump’s executive order, while noting it could have been better implemented.
“However imperfect or uneven the initial implementation of President Trump’s order, the reaction against it has been all out of proportion to its intent and impact,” Republican Congressman Tom Cole said.
“Critics have described the order as a Muslim ban. It is not … Some have claimed the order is illegal. It is not,” Cole said.
U.S. Sen Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said Trump’s executive order is reasonable, given the unrest in the affected nations, but should have been implemented after giving time for airlines, agencies and travelers to comply.
“President Trump’s executive order follows through on the promises made on the campaign trail to secure our country and protect our citizens,” Inhofe said. “This is not a Muslim ban, as the measure suspends all refugee admittance for 120 days and suspends the issuance of visas to nationals of seven specific countries for 90 days.”
Sen. James Lankford said U.S. leaders “have a responsibility to secure the homeland” but pointed out the president’s executive order “has some unintended consequences that were not well thought out.”
Lankford encouraged the president’s staff “to evaluate American policy with an eye on both security and compassion for the refugees fleeing the terrors of war and persecution.”
Adam Soltani, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said his sense is that Oklahoma Muslims think Trump’s action “has everything to do with Islam.”
“It’s very obvious to us that it stems from the rising tide of Islamaphobia in our country, and it’s a clear message to the Muslim community that he’s targeting us once again.”
“This is just a continuation of Donald Trump’s anti-Muslims rhetoric that has been going on since he launched his campaign.”
Soltani said he said has received “hundreds and hundreds” of calls and emails from Oklahoma Muslims since Friday.
“Countless families in Oklahoma here on student visas or work visas are from countries in the ban, and this affects their ability to travel and see their own families.
“There’s a lot of concern, a lot of confusion, and lot of anxiety about this,” he said.
Imam Ederer said he has been gratified by the support shown by non-Muslims in Tulsa.
He said he has talked with the Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice, Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry and the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance about developing some type of solidarity campaign.
Moises Echeverria, president of OCCJ, said in a statement, “We urge leaders of our state and nation to consider the countless lives who will be negatively impacted by measures which aim to turn our backs on the most vulnerable.”
Ray Hickman, TMM executive director, said, “TMM is gravely concerned that President Trump, who obviously and legitimately has a responsibility to ensure safe border control, is overstepping his authority by issuing a reactive, short sighted, narrow minded and obviously discriminatory order.”
The Tulsa Council for Holocaust Education, part of the Tulsa Jewish Federation, said in a statement that Trump’s order “clearly targets the Muslim community, putting innocent children, women and men at risk.”
The council condemned “any policy on immigration or emergency refuge that discriminates on the basis of religious status.”
Oral Roberts University President William Wilson said the university does not have any students from the affected nations, but “a few of ORU’s international students have expressed concerns about what this could eventually mean for family members or friends.”
“We stand with our students and also support our nation’s attempts to protect its citizens through a thorough vetting process,” he said in a statement.
Bishop David Konderla, of the Catholic Diocese of Tulsa, said the United States’ immigration system is broken, and he thinks the Trump administration likely views the executive order as a first step toward fixing it.
Future steps must distinguish between immigrants who, though they may be here illegally, are proving to be valuable potential citizens, and those who are causing problems, he said.
He also said the system should provide refuge for people who are in mortal danger, regardless of their religion.
But he criticized media coverage of the order.
“The back story to this whole thing is that we no longer live in a country where we can get accurate information. Many in the news media are trying to create news and not report it, and they are ginning up a kind of hysteria that is unfortunate. It makes it much more complicated to deal with all of these issues.
“Some people just hate the new president, and there’s going to be this kind of reaction to everything he does going forward.”