President Donald Trump is expected to issue an executive order this week banning immigration to the US from Iran and six other Muslim-majority countries. The American Iranian Council considers this order as inappropriate and ineffective in the fight against terror. It is only unfortunate that a very small minority among the 1.5 billion Muslims in the world should be engaged in terrorism, giving Islam a tarnished name. While we must protect our people and the Council is fully for acts that improve our national security, we believe targeting entire countries for the action of a few is unjust and counterproductive to U.S. interests and the “America First” directive of the new administration.
More than 9 million Muslims have made the US their home, including 1.5 million Iranians, who are among the most successful Americans. A complete ban on visas for all individuals originating from Iran and the countries on the list (Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya) will deprive the U.S. of the benefits these people could bring. Indeed, the majority of immigrants who come to the U.S. do so hoping to contribute to American society and make a better life for themselves. This is particularly true about Iranians who, along with Israelis, are the friendliest to America in the region. We do ourselves harm by rejecting such aspirational, hard-working and motivated individuals from entering the United States.
Even those who visit the US for a short period (e.g., to attend weddings of family members, study in some of the best universities in the world, get health care, visit loved ones, or offer their skills to the U.S. work force), become mini-ambassadors of the US, ultimately returning home to share the experience they had with their communities. Banning immigration and visitation from these seven Muslim-majority countries would diminish one of the US’ most powerful assets – soft diplomacy and the exportation of American culture and creed, particularly its democratic tradition so sought after in these same countries and other undemocratic nations.
The American Iranian Council is also concerned that not only the expected executive order will fail to improve US relations with or good-will in the Muslim world, it instead doubles down on the perception that America is at war with Islam, which could inspire some individuals to sympathize with anti-American causes. We further believe that this action is un-American because it contradicts the long-standing American tradition of welcoming immigrants of all backgrounds into this country. The very idea of denying visa to peoples based on their religion or place of birth, and not based on evidence or intelligence that links them to terrorist activity, is contrary to what this country stands for.
Finally, the Council strongly believes that our goal and policy should be to keep this country safe. However, America does that best by being the "shining city on a hill" that President Reagan decreed – a country that inspires rather than rejects; that builds on hope rather than on fear. We also hold President Trump to his words in his inaugural speech when he said: “We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world -- but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first. We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow.”
The American Iranian Council