Donald Trump's immigration ban and a turbulent Islamic world are a bad combination

Donald Trump has barely completed a fortnight in office as the US president and there is already much turmoil and confusion in the Muslim world especially in the wake of the ban on the entry of citizens from seven Islamic nations. Many other countries are reeling under a similar fear of unpredictability whether they could be next.

Pakistan, our immediate neighbour, is panicking and it's more than evident. A majority of Pakistanis are apprehending and anticipating a ban. Many are drawing parallels between this and the house arrest of 26 November, 2008 mastermind Hafiz Saeed (head of Jamaat-ud-Dawa). The military spokesperson had clarified that the house arrest was due to an order 'from the top'. So who is this 'top'? Is it Nawaz Sharif or Donald Trump? Kuwait too has followed suit, banning the grant of visas to immigrants from five Islamic-majority countries. More such knee-jerk actions are afoot as Trump ruthlessly enforces his campaign promises. Fear and uncertainty also haunts Muslim students currently studying in the US who could very well face deportation.

File image of Donald Trump. AFP

File image of Donald Trump. AFP

Trump's decisions or 'threats' for further drastic action have given rise to the emergence of one segment of miscreants who are essentially anti-Islam and racist. Hiding behind Trump's belligerence, they seem to have a free hand in targetting the Muslims. Reverberations are being felt in Justin Trudeau’s liberal Canada during the recent attack in a Quebec mosque where a shootout left half a dozen worshippers dead. It’s a worry for Trudeau’s tolerant policies, the space for liberalism is shrinking fast.

The bottom line is what the possible repercussions of Trump’s actions could be beyond the US. The echoes will be felt in the Islamic world. Trump’s systematic isolation and blanket ban on these few Muslim countries will not go down well with other Muslim-majority nations. The liberal thinkers could slowly gravitate towards taking a harder line. It is this possible backlash that needs to be carefully watched by security agencies. There does not seem to be any one Islamic leader of apolitical credibility whose appeal will be adhered to. In the absence of such a leader, any mass movement may assume dangerous proportions.

There is significant worry among Indian Muslims about their future prospects in the US. Are higher studies and career options slowly diminishing especially for them? Assessing developments in India related to Trump's action, India could see protests outside the US embassy or perhaps sponsored actions backed by Tehran. It's still a force to reckon with and judging by Iran's past track record of targetting US interests and facilities outside India (hostage-taking in the US embassy in Tehran in 1979 and targetting an American diplomat in New Delhi three to four years ago), Iran has the capacity to provide a few jolts. Remember India has a significant Shia population that will also be unhappy with Trump’s stand and ban on Iran.

Banning Pakistan may see some reactions in India. While it may not impact Delhi, Kashmir could see violent reactions causing law and order problems with far-reaching implications. This needs to be watched rather closely with a hawkish eye. It could be a gamechanger that upsets the relative the peace in the Valley consolidated with such painstaking efforts in the recent past.

Further, if Trump chooses to take on the Muslim Brotherhood, then their supporters and sympathisers may surface overground in other countires and India could be a target. This also merits close supervision.

As of now, Trump is speaking and acting tough. The aggrieved quarters may not be only silently watching the executive decisions and warnings to the attorneys, they must be, within and outside the US, contemplating the next course of action. If not overt, it could be covert with damaging results. They are not to be underestimated.

They have the capacity to flex their muscles and bare their fangs when time is opportune. Pacifists are hoping such an 'opportune' moment never comes.

All said and done, affected parties are unlikely to remain dormant for long. Somalia, Yemen et al have shown in the past that they have nothing to lose, so the message is to fight till the end. The terror groups active or dormant in Africa may join hands. Mali, Mauritania, Tunisia have all seen terror. Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State are just round the corner. Help is more than forthcoming. Other than Africa, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Maldives and southern Thailand have the potential to dare the mighty and powerful to prove that they are alive and kicking and don't deserve to be ignored.

The author is a retired IPS officer and a security analyst. He is also a senior fellow with the India Police Foundation. Views are personal.


Published Date: Feb 02, 2017 12:56 pm | Updated Date: Feb 03, 2017 02:27 pm


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