Confusion and caution: German Muslims and politicians react to Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’

 

The widespread confusion that has reigned since Donald Trump signed the executive order temporarily barring citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries on January 27 has not left German Muslims untouched.

Not only were a number of Muslim travellers from these countries left stranded at German airports as they were unable to board their connecting flights to the US after the order had been signed.(( http://hessenschau.de/gesellschaft/nach-trumps-einreiseverbot-stranden-muslime-in-frankfurt,transit-100.html )) The ban also impacts Muslims residing in Germany who have retained the nationality of their ancestors, as well as dual nationals holding a passport from the countries targeted besides their German citizenship.

Impact on dual citizens

Especially the issue of dual citizens has received heightened media coverage, since it meant that around 130,000 German passport holders were initially barred from entering the United States.(( http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/trumps-praesidentschaft/einreiseverbot-von-donald-trump-betrifft-deutsche-doppelstaatler-14797893.html ))

Among this group were a number of high-ranking public figures, including German-Iranian Green Party politician Omid Nouripour. Ironically enough, Nouripour is a fiercely atlanticist politician and the vice chairman of the German-American parliamentary cooperation committee.(( http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/donald-trump-omid-nouripour-darf-nicht-mehr-in-die-usa-reisen-a-1131900.html ))

Other individuals affected include Hesse’s economy minister and German-Yemeni Tarek Al-Wazir, German-Iranian Navid Kermani – a public intellectual and long-considered candidate for the post of President of the Federal Republic – or Aiman Mazyek, German-Syrian chairman of the Central Council of Muslims (ZMD).

Unresolved situation of Muslim residents

As the Trump administration appeared to walk back on some of the elements of its ‘Muslim ban’, dual citizens were exempted from the entry restrictions: US authorities confirmed that holders of German passports would be eligible to travel to the United States, irrespective of their second citizenship.(( http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/usa-unter-praesident-trump-deutsche-doppelstaatler-duerfen-wohl-doch-in-usa-einreisen-1.3358859 ))

No solution, however, appeared to be in sight for the Muslim residents of Germany, who – in spite of their often long-standing presence in the country – have not acquired German nationality. To them, the ban still applies to its fullest extent.

German Muslims’ opinion on Trump

Against this backdrop, it is all the more surprising that in a poll conducted between 27 and 30 January 2017 – and thus in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s executive decree – only 44.7 per cent of Muslim German respondents had a negative opinion of the Trump presidency. Among the overall German population, 68.4 per cent expressed such a negative view.(( http://cicero.de/berliner-republik/ciceroumfrage-klare-mehrheit-der-deutschen-gegen-trump ))

More than a third of German Muslims asserted that it was “a good thing that Donald Trump is President of the United States”. Beyond questions of statistical accuracy – with a sample size of 2,088, the share of Muslim respondents must have been small – political calculations detached from the ‘Muslim ban’ might also play a role in this assessment: many Muslim Middle Easterners were glad to see Trump triumph over Hillary Clinton, believing that the Republican would pursue a less interventionist policy vis-à-vis the region.(( https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/10/middle-east-donald-trump-president ))

Political reaction to the ‘Muslim ban’

The overall political reaction in Berlin to President Trump’s executive order has been more muted than might have been expected. Chancellor Merkel had her spokesman state that she “regretted” the ‘Muslim ban’ for its divisive implications. Yet when prodded by journalists the spokesman explicitly refrained from formally “condemning” the incoming administration’s move. Instead, the spokesman emphasised the need to analyse the situation and its implications. (( http://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/DE/_ElementeStart/Sprecher_node.html ))

Merkel subsequently went on to take a more openly critical stance in front of the press, asserting that the fight against terrorism did not justify a general suspicion against people of a certain belief. She was nevertheless careful to guard her words, stopping short of openly antagonising the Trump administration.(( http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/angela-merkel-donald-trump-muslim-ban_uk_588f8483e4b0ce6c8c2cc69b ))

While the opposition was quick to castigate the ban, another leading conservative politician, Bavarian Minister President Horst Seehofer, strove to hit a more conciliatory line towards the Trump administration.

Breaking ranks?

Seehofer, a long-standing inner-party critic of Merkel’s immigration policy, lauded the new American President for “quickly and determinedly implementing his campaign pledges step by step.” While he asserted that he did not agree with all of Trump’s policies, he invited the President to visit Bavaria and demanded that Trump’s status as the freely elected representative of the United States be respected.((http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/horst-seehofer-lobt-donald-trump-a-1132190.html ))

Seehofer has a long history of challenging Merkel on foreign and immigration matters through well-calculated contacts with foreign decision-makers. In October 2016, he welcomed Hungarian leader Viktor Orbán in Munich with great fanfare; a move that was widely seen as a bid to undermine Merkel’s immigration policy.(( http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/europaeische-union/viktor-orban-besucht-horst-seehofer-im-bayerischen-landtag-14485223.html )) In 2016, he also flew to Moscow twice for talks with Vladimir Putin in what appeared to be open defiance against Merkel’s position on the Ukraine crisis and her support for sanctions against Russia.(( http://www.br.de/nachrichten/seehofer-russland-putin-100.html ))

This highlights that while in the days after the promulgation of the ‘Muslim ban’ the Anglo-Saxon media rushed to celebrate the Merkel government as the bulwark against Trumpism,(( http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/angela-merkel-donald-trump-democracy-freedom-of-press-a7556986.html )) the actual position of the Chancellor and her administration is much more complex. Rather than assume the mantle of the ‘Chancellor of the Free World’ in a determined – yet, from her point of view, ultimately suicidal – stance against Trump, Merkel may well opt for a more cautious course of action.

U.S. Delegates Visit Moscow for Insight on Boston Attack

Members of a Congressional delegation visiting Moscow to investigate the background of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects said Sunday that the attack might have been prevented by greater cooperation between the United States and Russia on intelligence issues and counterterrorism efforts.

But the lawmakers said they could not point to any specific misstep by the American or Russia intelligence services, and they did not offer any new insights into what motivated the suspects, two brothers with family ties in Russia’s North Caucasus, to commit the attack.

“Yes, it could have been averted,” said Representative Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican who led the delegation and is the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and emerging threats. “Not just by one mistake by the United States or one mistake made over here in Russia, but instead by making sure that both countries were working together on a much higher level.”

Adding an odd celebrity touch, the lawmakers were joined by the action-film star Steven Seagal, who has a following in Russia. Mr. Seagal had helped arrange meetings and even offered to take the lawmakers to Chechnya to meet Ramzan Kadyrov, the region’s leader, who has been accused of human rights abuses.

The Chechnya visit was called off for logistical reasons, but Mr. Rohrbacher thanked Mr. Seagal and said he was instrumental in securing some meetings, including a session with Dmitri Rogozin, a deputy prime minister. “I don’t know that he would have been available to us if not for Steven’s role,” Mr. Rohrbacher said.

 

Boston suspects’ father postpones trip to US MAKHACHKALA, Russia (AP)

The father of the two Boston bombing suspects said Sunday that he has postponed a trip from Russia to the United States because of poor health. ‘‘I am really sick,’’ Anzor Tsarnaev, 46, told The Associated Press. He said his blood pressure had spiked to dangerous levels. Tsarnaev said at a news conference Thursday that he planned to leave that day or the next for the U.S. with the hope of seeing his younger son, who is under arrest, and burying his elder son, who was killed. His family, however, indicated later Thursday that the trip could be pushed back because he was not feeling well. During the past week, they were both questioned extensively by U.S. investigators who had traveled to Makhachkala from Moscow. They also were besieged by journalists who staked out their home. Tsarnaev’s family said last week that he intended to get to the U.S. by flying from Grozny, the Chechen capital, to Moscow. He and Tsarnaeva left Dagestan on Friday, but their whereabouts were unclear

Al-Wasatiya Center soon to open in Moscow

An agreement to base a representative office of the International al-Wasatiya Center in Moscow to proliferate ideas of moderation in Islam was signed in Kuwait during the 5th session of the “Russia and the Islamic World” Strategic Vision Group.

The International al-Wasatiya Center was founded in Kuwait several years ago and is currently run by Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s apprentice Shaykh Isam Bashir. It has offices in a number of countries around the globe, including USA and Great Britain.

The agreement to open its branch office in Russia was previously reached in July 2009 during a meeting between the Islamic Culture, Science and Education Foundation (Russia) and First Deputy Minister of Islamic Affairs and Wakfs Kuwait Adel al-Falyah (Kuwait).