A Middle East take on New American Law

Why is America afraid of Muslims?

Fear produces bigotry; bigotry leads to injustice; injustice feeds terrorism; terrorism undermines liberty. Obama doesn’t seem to get it.

US President Barack Obama after speaking at a national security team meeting at the National Counterterrorism Center on 17 December 2015 in McLean, Virginia. (APF/Mark Wilson)

When it comes to banning Muslims from entering the US, President Obama might be more nuanced than Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, but the president is certainly just as confused and scared.


Fear produces bigotry. Bigotry leads to injustice. Injustice feeds terrorism. Terrorism undermines liberty by prompting governments to enact laws that shutdown segments of the population wholesale. Affected communities — mostly Arab and Muslim — become disadvantaged and impoverished and their frustration builds, which makes them increasingly vulnerable to terrorist recruiters.


This vicious cycle of fear and terrorism is the reason terrorists score double victories with every attack on Western soil: they kill, causing governments to overreact, thus pushing more Muslims closer to terrorism.


For all his political correctness, Obama’s approval of a bipartisan law that bans dual citizens of 38 countries from entering the US shows that his anti-terror policies have not been as effective as he thought they were.


According to current US regulations, citizens of 38 countries can enter the US without visas. The new law bans any citizen from these countries who has visited Iraq, Syria, Iran or Sudan in the past five years from entering the US without a visa. Fair enough. But the law also stipulates that citizens of these countries, or those who have merely inherited their fathers’ nationality, will now require a visa to enter the US even if they have not been to their ancestral homelands.


The new law is the best example of America’s inadequate response to terrorism. In the six high-profile attacks since Obama became president — in Boston, Fort Hood, Chattanooga, Paris and San Bernardino — not one of the terrorists was Iraqi, Iranian or Sudanese and only one of them, in Paris, had allegedly been smuggled into Europe alongside Syrian refugees.


Contrary to his claims, Obama has never understood terrorism. He has simply renamed it and pretended it has gone away.


ISIS is territorial. Its leadership is Iraqi. Its world reach is designed to attract delusional foreign fighters to feed the group’s suicide battalion. Alternatively, ISIS connects with potential lone wolves in the West and inspires them to launch attacks as a means of raising the group’s profile. The more famous ISIS becomes for its terrorism, the more legitimacy it gains with the foreign fighters it uses as fodder for its endless wars.


Obama’s failures to understand world affairs, especially terrorism, has frightened Americans and driven them into the arms of populists like Donald Trump.


And American fear has gone wild: An Arab student was arrested when teachers saw wires coming out of his homemade clock. A school in Virginia banned an Arabic calligraphy course, confusing it with “terrorist ideology.” A poll found that 30% of Republicans want Washington to bomb Disney’s fictional Arab town of Agrabah.


America is afraid of Muslims, and President Obama’s reiteration that the US should stay out of the Sunni-Shiite conflict that Washington does not understand has only made Americans more frightened. Obama saying that he has been doing all he can to protect the homeland and that Americans should remain vigilant has not helped soothe this fear.


Obama may not have the capacity to understand or appropriately deal with terrorism, but America desperately needs a president who can.


To understand terrorism, a president should understand its causes — currently rooted in the Middle East’s Sunni-Shiite conflict, which is heavily titled in favor of Iran and the Shiites. Sunnis are frustrated and trying to make their enemy, Iran, and the rest of the world pay for the injustice that has befallen them since the start of the Iraq War in 2003.


When Obama undid the 2007 troop surge by handing Iraqi Sunnis to their Shiite enemies, he reignited the war he so wanted to end.


Obama says America wants out of the Middle East and then invests the bulk of his diplomacy trying to win favor with Iran, hoping that the ‘positive vibe’ will somehow solve problems. But cozying up to Iran has caused Sunnis to believe America is taking sides, forcing Sunnis to fight both Iran and America.


Ending a war is not just about withdrawing troops. It is about achieving reconciliation between all combatant parties, which in turn requires establishing justice. Obama clearly does not understand the current problem of ISIS, and by favoring Iran his foreign policy has made the world a more dangerous place. Obama has effectively let terrorists — who were on the run when he took office — spring back into action.


Obama has unwittingly created the fear that is feeding Trump’s polls. Because America does not understand the world, it will remain scared of Muslims. Closing America’s borders will not make America safer — only understanding the world and its dangers will.


Hussain Abdul-Hussain is the Washington Bureau Chief of Kuwaiti newspaper Alrai. He tweets @hahussain


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