Indonesia, Muslim World Voice Concerns Over Trump Immigration Ban

Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata and Hadi Azmi
Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur
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170203-SEA-usban-1000.jpg Demonstrators protest outside the American embassy in Kuala Lumpur against an immigration ban by the Trump administration on seven Muslim countries in the Middle East and Africa, Feb. 3, 2017.
Courtesy of Democratic Action Party

Updated at 7:45 p.m. ET on 2017-02-03

The American move to block citizens of seven Muslim countries from entering the United States over security concerns could harm counter-terrorism efforts, Indonesia’s foreign ministry said this week, while Malaysia sought clarification about how the policy would affect Malaysians.

But both Southeast Asian countries are not among those affected by the ban.

An executive order signed by U.S. President Donald Trump last week imposed a 90-day ban on citizens of seven countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – from entering the U.S. It also froze for at least 120 days the admission of all refugees from anywhere in the world, and it barred Syrian refugees from arriving on American soil indefinitely.

“Even though this is the sovereign right of the United States, Indonesia deeply regrets the issuing of this policy, because it is likely to have a negative impact on global efforts to fight terrorism and the handling of refugee issues,” Arrmanatha Nasir, spokesman for the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told BenarNews in a text message.

“It is wrong to associate radicalism and terrorism with a particular religion,” he added.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said Indonesians need not be concerned about the ban.

“We are not affected by the policy, why worry?” he said in a statement.

Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim nation. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a group of 57 Muslim countries, including Indonesia and Malaysia, and the United Nations voiced alarm over the move widely seen as discriminating against Muslims.

Malaysia not affected: Embassy

In Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur, around 100 protesters demonstrated Friday against the ban outside the U.S. embassy. They delivered a letter for the American ambassador in which they described the ban as divisive and smearing Islam.

“This executive order would create further division among people of the world of different religions and origins. It also will strengthen the mistaken perception of Islam, and damage the reputation of the citizens of those seven countries; further victimizing the religion in the already war-torn nations,” said the letter signed by parties in an opposition coalition.

The Malaysian foreign ministry had sought clarification from the embassy after a Malaysian newspaper reported that at least one Malaysian was among 71 foreign travelers held by immigration authorities at New York’s JFK Airport, because of the new policy.

“The Ministry has clarified with the Embassy of the United States of America in Kuala Lumpur that the travel ban does not include Malaysia and her citizens. Malaysians who have valid travel documents and necessary visas are allowed to enter the United States,” officials said in a statement.

The embassy in Kuala Lumpur said Malaysians could travel to the United States with a valid visa, pointing out that Malaysia was “not affected” by the executive order.

‘Selective and discriminatory’

The OIC called on the Trump administration to reconsider the “blanket order” and said this would “further complicate the already grave challenges facing refugees.”

“Such selective and discriminatory acts will only serve to embolden the radical narratives of extremists and will provide further fuel to the advocates of violence and terrorism at a critical time when the OIC has been engaged with all partners, including the U.S., to combat extremism and terrorism in all their forms and manifestations,” the world Muslim body said Tuesday in a statement.

Antonio Guterres, the new secretary general of the United Nations, echoed that sentiment in calling for the U.S. to lift the ban.

“Those measures indeed violate our basic principles and I think that they are not effective if the objective is to, really, avoid terrorists to enter the United States,” he told reporters on Wednesday, according to Agence France-Presse.

Going after extremists

The Trump administration has defended its move, saying it does not target people who practice Islam and that it aims to stop foreign terrorists or criminals from infiltrating the U.S.

In a statement late Friday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security listed several types of travelers from the seven countries for whom the 90-day ban on entry to the United States does not apply, including dual passport holders and diplomats.

"Importantly, these seven countries are the only countries to which the pause on entry applies. No other countries face such treatment. Nor have any other countries been identified as warranting future inclusion at this time, contrary to false reports," the statement said.

It also said that in the future the U.S. government could be alerting some foreign governments that they need to provide more information on their nationals who are seeking admission to the United States.

"The goal is to ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward the United States and its founding principles," it said.

“The consequence [of] extreme vetting [by the U.S.] will increase radicalism inside America itself,” warned Rakyan Adibrata, a Jakarta-based security expert.

Such a unilateral move by the new American government, Rakyan told BenarNews, could “become a justification for countries that already hate America to hate [it] even more.”


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