Arabs Should Look In The Mirror Before Criticizing Trump’s Travel Ban


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Over the past few days, I watched Americans old and young protest against their president’s travel ban. It was a sight to behold – those people who were taught all their lives to fear Arabs, Muslims and to have all kinds of negative connotations with them were standing up for human decency.

The protests haven’t been exclusive to the United States. London and other European cities have had their own share, culminating in an fiery discussion between British PMs about Trump and his policies.

Meanwhile in the Arab world, crickets.

Not a single Arab country had anything to say about the ban. They couldn’t even muster the guts to stand up with their own. I guess that whole “Arabism” theme is only nice when used from Arab Idol and The Voice podiums.

What some countries did was the exact opposite: Kuwait fortified travel bans against 5 Muslim countries, including Syria. The top Emirati diplomat came out in support of the travel ban. And these moves are not without context.

The two Arab countries that have taken the most refugees are Jordan and Lebanon with 1 million and 1.5 million officially registered refugees, respectively. Gulf counties, all of which are not affected by Trump’s ban despite them being the biggest exporters of Islamic terrorism, have taken in a total of zero.

As a side note, that is also the exact same number of Americans that have been killed by terrorist attacks from the countries Trump has banned, while the number is 2500+ from the Gulf countries that he has not banned and who haven’t taken in any refugees.

In fact, Gulf countries have made their visa requirements for other Arabs so disgusting that no one dares speak up against it. I personally have no intention to ever work or live there, so I suppose I can speak up.

KSA has increased its visa price to $1200 for Lebanese nationals in an attempt to curb the number of Lebanese coming in for work, and as a political retaliation at the country not giving it the blowjobs it always needs.

The UAE has made it near impossible to obtain work visas for it as well, and depending on the Emirate you’re applying to work in, you could be rejected entirely despite having proper paperwork. Moreover, the UAE has made it near impossible for Syrians whose families are in the country to get visas to visit; case in point: a Syrian friend of mine who was born and raised there couldn’t go see her family since moving to Lebanon for university studies, but was able to get a 2 year US visa (prior to the ban).

The UAE’s situation doesn’t stop there. They’ve been systematically targeting people for deportation based on their religious affiliation. If the Lebanese state had any decency, they’d publish the list of Shiite nationals who were deported just for being Shiites.

As mentioned above, Kuwait has enforced a visa ban on 5 Muslim countries, including Syria. But this isn’t new for Kuwait. In fact, the country is known for its derision of foreigners coming in, however they are, except if they are Westerners of course.

As a Lebanese, I need a visa to enter every single Arab country even if for a visit except Jordan and Syria. The rest of those countries don’t have a straightforward process either and for some of them, I have to provide the same papers demanded by the US or Schengen visas. And my country isn’t better either. Yes, we have 1.5 million to 2 million refugees, which is probably more than what the country can handle granted, but few are those who are happy with having the refugees here and see them as anything more than a burden in the best of cases or treat them with all the xenophobia they could muster on average.

In fact, it might be hard to believe but Lebanon has strict visa requirements toward certain countries as well. For starters, the criteria we’ve enforced towards accepting Syrians in are hell. Many are turned away at our borders because they can’t tick off the checklist from hell we’ve started to enforce a few years ago. We also enforce inhumane visa requirements on countries we deem as “lesser.” Refer to how Deepa Dermasiri, Malek Maktabi’s New Year Eve gut-wrenching story, couldn’t get a visa to come see her daughter in Lebanon and passed away before she was able to.

What’s worse, the story doesn’t just stop with visas. While Americans protested against a ban that doesn’t even affect most of them, has there been any protests in the places we come from? In the grander scheme of things, has there been protests against the horrendous visa requirements we have for each other to begin with?

Do Lebanese dare to speak up against the rules the Emirati government humiliated them with? Or Saudi visas? Or any Arab visa?

Do we even stand up for minorities in our countries? When was the last time we had protests for some parts of our societies that were oppressed? When did Muslims have mass protests for the persecuted Christians in some Arab countries? When did we have mass protests for women rights? LGBT rights? KSA has Muslim only roads. Just saying.

Yes, those of us who stand up are courageous because it’s so difficult to do so in the first place, but the rest are complacent and satisfied. With what? Religion, money, lack of education… you name it.

Yes, Trump’s ban is all kinds of messed up. But then again, aren’t we all kinds of messed up too? Let’s take a hard look in the mirror at how we treat each other before panicking about how others are treating us, because the fact of the matter is: we treat other Arabs worse than Trump could ever do.

So thanks to the Americans protesting for us. You’re greater than even I thought you were.

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25 thoughts on “Arabs Should Look In The Mirror Before Criticizing Trump’s Travel Ban

  1. Pingback: Arabs Should Look In The Mirror Before Criticizing Trump’s Travel Ban | Mikepouraryan's Weblog

  2. Wow. What an interesting & brave commentary. I can’t boast of anything either, as an Australian the refugee prisons on neighbouring islands that both left/right governments created. Our criminalising of refugees emboldened other countries to follow suit.
    Our immigration minister recently declared that most of the people radicalised were 2ND generation Lebanese. Appalling. A small percentage of a small percent. We have 2% Muslim population yet an increasing rise of anti – Islam sentiment fuelled by our govt.
    And I agree the hypocrisy towards Saudi Arabia – weaponised greed. Thank you for your thoughts.

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  3. As Israeli citizens are banned from entering all of the countries that Trump has banned, as well as many other Muslim countries, I think it’s fair to call you a bunch of fucking hypocrites.

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    • Hahaha! And I think it’s fair to tell you to pull your head out of your ass. Hypocrisy? When Israel stops occupying Arab land, including the Golan heights and the Shebaa farms, violating Palestinians on daily basis and essentially be an enemy country of most of those countries, then come address the issue.

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      • You pathetic moron. Divide et Impera, even the ancient romans understood one thosand years before your messiah. Do you have a working brain in Arabia? Roman name, eh 🙂

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    • Israel didnt just ban natives from entering their own country but they systematically kick them out of their own land. And at times they dont just ban them from entering, but ban them from leaving. If i need to visit deir ghassaneh (my own village near ramallah were my family comes from) i need to go through a grueling process that randomly works at the time they choose to, and then guess what? I have to ILLEGALLY enter westbank and home israeli authorities not to catch me, since they only allow me to travel to 1948 occupied land or jerusalem). Of all the ridiclous bans arab states impose, the ban against israelis is the only sane one.

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  4. While I agree that many Arab countries are not better than the U.S. on this issue, the reason many Arabs are protesting/calling out this decision is because: 1) The U.S. is home to some of the world’s best universities, cities, and companies. While Dubai is probably one of the nicer places to live in, I doubt someone would choose to live in Riyadh over NY or California. 2) the U.S. government is typically quite responsive to public opinion and protests. I highly doubt that protests in the Gulf countries over immigration rights or women’s rights would be met well by the respective governments, let alone listened to.

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    • Yeah, aren’t people killed if they speak against the government? We can protest in peace in America and know it’s our right. People in the Arab countries don’t have that privilege. I will say though, if there was any time to stand up for your country, it’d be now.

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  5. A gallant piece of writing!
    I agree wholeheartedly with your opinion. This is our SAD reality. Yes, our Arab countries are always clashing within their borders, and against each other. Oh, and of course building islands in the sea, the tallest towers in the world, and bringing snow to the desert!
    Human rights are practically non existent, and any rules are there to be broken, while workers (especially foreigners, with no possession of a shiny American, British, Canadian…. passport) are there to be treated like dogs, and humiliated.
    Yes, Trump is making things difficult for many, but Americans have blood in their veins, spines in their backs, brains in their heads, and hearts in their chests. We Arabs/Muslims have lost all of that! But again, our Arab brothers and sisters living in the Arab world have more than their fair share to worry about in their own homelands and countries. They are too exhausted to express their anger or frustration. What good is it gong to do anyway? Who is listening?
    Indeed, our Arab/Muslim world is in a very poignant state!

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  6. I definitely agree with the broader point you are making but in the case of Lebanon I think you are being a little harsh. Yes we have many issues, notably the way we treat Palestinian refugees. But at the end of the day we have let in 1.5 to 2 million refugees which is more than any other country, and given the size and population density of Lebanon it is truly commendable. And I was under the impression that visa applications for Syrian refugees became more difficult after over 1 million were already in Lebanon. And that makes sense, Lebanon physically cannot handle and indefinite amount of refugees, the country is too small and there are 23 million Syrians.
    I also think criticism of America is warranted because unlike the UAE they claim to be a beacon of hope people in distress all around the world. The way the UAE treat women and certain minorities is despicable, so no one is surprised they would ban refugees. Also the much of the refugee crisis today is due to the American invasion of Iraq, so for them to now wipe their handle clean of the mess they in part created obviously going to spark outrage.

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    • Minorities and women life in UAE are far more better than backward Lebanese who fought,killed and raped each other Minorities and women for more than 15 years.

      What about you barbarians in thw Levant and Iraq stop killing each other and fighting for power and live like the rest of the world do !!

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  7. The hypocrisy of criticizing arab countries by saying they’re not united by divided them by gulf vs non-gulf. Next time you blatantly want to spout propaganda maybe cool it with the biased language. false facts as well… KSA has taken in Refugee and are not counted because they’re not part of the Geneva convention. Blatant propaganda and you should be ashamed.

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  8. Elie, it’s not that accurate to say that the Gulf states took zero refugees. There’s a very good report by the Gulf Research Center entitled “A Note on Syrian Refugees in the
    Gulf: Attempting to Assess Data and Policies.” Several Gulf states took some Syrians, but weren’t calling them refugees. Since then they’ve all blocked entry for newly incoming Syrians, but keep extending the visas of Syrians already in the countries instead of deporting them. So it’s better than nothing.

    Also you’re wrong to criticize Arabs in general, since surveys show that Arabs overwhelmingly support the removal of travel restrictions on other Arabs. The Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies publishes a regular survey of 14 Arab countries and over 21,000 people, titled “مشروع قياس الرأي العام العربي”. The last one I read was the 2012-2013 one, and in that 78% of respondents said they thought all travel restrictions between Arab countries should be removed.

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  9. I am in love with a Beautiful Christian Man from a Small Village outside of Damascus, and We are afraid of Religious Persecution during the Civil War. His Village has been Bombed and one of his Sisters were killed walking home. Where do I turn Any REfugee assist. I want to get him here and We will Marry immediately and He will Live with me. I am Lower Middle Class Single American afraid for his Life.

    Reply

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