For the past couple of days, all hell has literally been let loose since the signing of an executive order by United States President Donald Trump that restricted entry to Muslims from seven countries for 90 days, revoking valid visas and even those with Green Cards, which makes them permanent residents, as well as indefinitely suspending taking in Syrian refugees.
Since then, there has been a litany of articles in protest and a number of protest marches being planned for today as the ban has caused thousands of people from the countries to be stranded at ports of entry.
Naturally, this has elicited tons of reactions from Nigerians, and hitherto fans of Trump are convinced that he has done the right thing to protect his country. However, it will be erroneous of them to celebrate at his move for the following reasons:
To start with, it looks as though the countries affected by the ban were chosen arbitrarily: Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Libya. If the premise for these countries being on the list is that they have produced terrorists, why then is Saudi Arabia which Trump has rightly identified as the birthplace of the Wahhabist fundamentalist ideology that fuels Islamic terrorism and even funds it, Pakistan and Afghanistan who host Al-Qaeda and the Taliban respectively not on the list?
This also means that Nigeria is literally a step away from being on such list, with homegrown terrorist groups like Boko Haram and the fact that a Nigerian citizen, Farouk Umar Abdulmutallab has attempted taking down an American airliner in 2009. These are criteria that could be enough for us to be included on such a list.
While as much as every other peace-loving person we want to see terrorism everywhere defeated, we do not believe it will come from stereotyping everyone of a faith and/or from a country because a few people of the same faith and country are involved in terrorism. As a matter of fact, it risks alienating people when their support should be sought to fight a common evil.
Not only that, the Executive Order has significantly increased the powers of immigration officers to deny entry to persons they deem dangerous. There are already complaints by Muslims and those with Muslim-sounding names from countries other than the seven on the list, including Nigeria, being held up and interrogated at airports, even to the point of missing their flights. Such powers will affect a lot of Nigerians, many of whom are very likely to be law-abiding and peace-loving persons.
Lastly, there is a risk that this order feeds into the narrative by terrorists of a West that is bent on destroying Islam and might be the motivation for Boko Haram or other like-minded terrorists groups to attack Western targets particularly in Abuja and Lagos. While Boko Haram has been largely confined to the North-East, it is not impossible that their ability to plan and carry out attacks in other parts of Nigeria still exists.
No matter our sentiment about President Trump, we should be worried that his Muslims ban can affect Nigerians negatively and the majority of them will not be terrorists as it is intended to target.