Opinion letter to the editor

Trump’s Executive Orders should not be called a “Muslim ban”

Orders are not a “Muslim ban” but a figurative stance against the expansionism of the Khamenei regime in Iran

I appreciate and respect the reporting and perspectives that have been published during this semester in The Tech in response to or in connection with President Trump’s travel and immigration executive orders. However, some crucial facts and opinions have been missing which the MIT community deserves to know about, especially in these current troubled times when security threats have become daily news.

For one, the total World Muslim population is estimated to be about 1.8 billion. On the other hand, Trump’s 1st executive order listed seven countries with the total population of about 230 million which is the sum of the estimated populations for Muslims in Iran (80 million), Iraq (40), Syria (25), Sudan (37), Libya (7), Somalia (12), and Yemen (31). From these countries alone, only Iran is among the top-10 Muslim-majority countries—even then, only ranked 7th. The 2nd of Trump’s executive orders moreover dropped Iraq from the above list. As a result, even if we assume that all of the above seven countries are “Muslim,” which they are arguably not, it means that even Trump’s 1st executive order covered only 14% of the Muslim-majority countries in the world. Thus, statistically speaking, Trump’s executive orders should not be called a “Muslim ban."

Calling Trump’s executive orders a “Muslim Ban” is not only statistically inaccurate but also dangerous because it benefits the regime of Khamenei in Iran, which has been the main target of Trump’s orders. By calling the executive orders a “Muslim ban,” the Khamenei regime is able to deflect public attention from the Khamenei regime of Iran, which not only has routinely violated the basic human rights of the people inside Iran but also has deepened the bloody conflicts in the surrounding region. These conflicts have become the main reason for recent surges of refugees, especially from Syria and Yemen. The criminal regime of Khamenei, which has been ruling in Iran for decades, has abused a great amount of the Iranian national budget by illegitimately entering into the internal conflicts in the above-listed countries. These crucial and tangible concerns concerning the destructive role of the Khamenei regime of Iran in the region have prompted Trump to issue the executive orders as a figurative stance against the expansionism of the Iranian regime in the region. By his orders, Trump has also tried to show some symbolic control on the immigration flow into the US, as he reiterated to his supporters during his presidential campaign. Therefore, we should remember that the Khamenei regime not only routinely commits criminal acts against the people inside Iran but also is responsible for deepening and prolonging the internal conflicts in the countries with the travel/immigration bans. Though the Khamenei regime’s actions have increased the hardship for travelling and immigration from such countries, due to Trump’s travel bans, we should not take for granted how easy travelling and immigration has been for certain countries. Easy travelling and immigration has not always been the case.

For example, before the Iranian Revolution of 1979, any Iranian could literally walk into the US embassy in Tehran and leave with a US visa on the same day. At the time, any Iranian could just as easily receive a visa for any European country. But after November 4, 1979, the US embassy in Tehran was taken over by a small group of students who, with the blessing of Khomeini, kept over 50 of the US Embassy’s staff hostage for 444 days. US then cut diplomatic ties with Iran. Since then, the Iranian passport has become a liability for its holder because the Khomeini regime agents also started a campaign of terrorist activities and assassinations outside Iran.

It has since been 4 decades that Iranians have been experiencing a difficult and long process for receiving any kind of US visa because there is no US embassy in Iran. Moreover, the US still does not have diplomatic ties with Iran. Consequently, Iranians like me should not blame anybody except the Khamenei regime of Iran for our US travelling and immigration hardships. Despite all this, the US government has never completely banned Iranians categorically and instead has kept its arm open to them, even during times of political turmoil.

To put the whole story into perspective, I need to end with a personal anecdote here. Shortly after I graduated from Aryamehr/Sharif University in Tehran, in 1985 when Ronald Reagan was president and the story of US hostages in Iran was still a very recent memory for Americans, I presented my MIT admission and I-20 to the US embassy in London and received my US F-1 Student visa the next day. However, it took me about 10 years to get my US residency/green card through EB-1 preferred category (person of extraordinary ability in Science), even after getting my MS and PhD from MIT because I had to go through a very prolonged immigration and security process. During those 10 years, I only dared to visit my family in Iran twice because, like now, there was no guarantee that I would get a visa for coming back to the US in a timely manner. However, I did not blame the US administration for my hardship because I knew and know that the source of travelling and immigration plight was and still is the Khamenei regime’s fault—not the US’s.

Ali Talebinejad, is a member of the department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.