July 27, 2017

The Muslim Travel Ban And End of Religious Freedom

Protestors with signs. Photo by Talita Elizeu

By: Talita Elizeu ‘17

Politically Opinionated Food Columnist

To the family who has made me, students who surround me, professors who teach me and all American evangelicals who have cherished and fought for freedom of religion – we are all under threat because of the president in office. As a people who have inherited the Native American’s land as a result of their genocide, and  have the recent historical memory of the Holocaust, one of the most terrifying parts of Trump’s  platform was the normalization of persecution of Muslims.

In the last week, Trump has placed a ninety-day travel ban on Muslims from seven predominantly Muslim Middle Eastern countries. The ban excludes countries that any terrorist attacking US soil in the last thirty years have been associated with, and curiously enough, where Donald Trump has business. There have been reports of citizens of those countries who have become legalized American residents – “green card” holders – being denied entry into the United States. This order allows preferential treatment for Christians coming from those countries, with reports of religious tests in airports.  

When the state determines your religion and uses it for mass exclusion and control, all freedom is at stake. Is this what makes us free? The first appearances of religious and state control thinly veiled as national security measures? Inevitably, there are terrifying parallels to both early Jewish registration laws and cultural conditions of 1930’s Europe.

The majority of evangelicals voted Donald Trump, possibly in hopes that religious freedoms would be protected. And that’s exactly why–as evangelicals willing to go to bat for our religious freedom and rights–we should do the same for Muslims.

Values such as freedom from government control and religious persecution have no integrity or value if they are not universal – if they only count when it is convenient. If evangelicals have voted him in with the best of intentions, then they are fraudulent if we do not fight back when the rights we cherish for ourselves are violated for others. As citizens who cherish freedom, it is our civic duty to stand up when the religious rights of others are violated. As Christians who value life and our universally God-given freedom, it is important to pray with our feet, working for liberty and justice.

When reading about horrific times in history, we always question what we would have done if we were there. It’s safe to say that you whatever you are doing now is what you would have done then. How long will it be before we realize that we have contributed to a culture that puts the lives of others at risk, that rips families and communities apart? As Christians, we must be willing to sacrifice our comfort and make space for the lives of others. I’m not suggesting that there aren’t threats to national security, and that the lives of Americans aren’t important. Rather, this ban puts us all at at risk, undermining the constitutional separation of church and state with this executive order for religious persecution and the exclusion of war refugees, as well as undermining domestic freedoms with undemocratic, badly implemented pseudo-measures to make a minority (however significant) of people feel protected from terrorism.

As a powerful group of voters and agents, evangelicals must stand up for the religious rights and freedoms of Muslims in this moment, or be known, at best, as some of history’s greatest opportunists and hypocrites.

At the entrance of the Holocaust Memorial in Boston is a quote from Martin Niemöller’s early post-World War II lectures. He was a protestant pastor and outspoken critic and enemy of Adolf Hitler, and spent the seven years before the end of Nazi rule in a concentration camp. His quote serves as a challenge to our complacency, prompting awareness and action, for the safety of our neighbors and for our own.

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

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