Exactly seven days after being sworn in with a promise to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States,” Donald Trump issued a ban on all travel from the Muslim-majority nations of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen into the United States. One week into his presidency, and Trump had essentially declared Muslims to be enemies of the United States.
The order was rolled out with well-documented chaos, stranding grandmothers, sick children coming to the U.S. for treatment, and most ironically, men who have risked their lives as Iraqi interpreters to protect American soldiers. By the next day there was extraordinary pushback from ordinary citizens who swarmed airports, and federal judges blocked parts of the order from being implemented. By February 9, despite the administration’s claim that the ban is necessary to protect “national security,” a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against its reinstatement.
Now, rather than risk losing more battles in court, President Trump has stated that he will simply create a new, more carefully worded ban in the coming days.
While Muslims currently remain the target of the administration’s ire, no marginalized group is safe. During the Republican convention last year, then-candidate Trump claimed in typically hyperbolic language that “as your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBT citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.” But what about a hateful domestic ideology? Notably, virtually all of Trump’s inner circle and Cabinet picks are virulently anti-LGBT and anti-equality. Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, signed harsh anti-equality legislation as governor of Indiana which was condemned nationwide, and he has promised to bring the same to the nation. In fact, at the beginning of February a draft of an executive order was leaked that would have explicitly permitted discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in federal programs, all under the familiar guise of “religious liberty”; its fate remains uncertain. Last Wednesday, the Administration rescinded Obama-era guidelines that protected transgender students.
Trump and his band of advisers are using a playbook that originated during his campaign and is now a part of his governing strategy: target one marginalized group and pit other marginalized groups against it so no one can band together. On the campaign trail, Trump repeatedly stated that he would be a friend to LGBT people by protecting them from “a hateful foreign ideology.” This statement alone presumes of a number of demonstrably false ideas. First, that Islam itself is a “hateful foreign ideology.” While Islam in its many forms has developed in large part in the Middle East, it has been a part of America since the founding of our nation. There are many documented Muslim soldiers who fought to defend America during and since the Revolutionary War. Second, this statement tries to pit Muslims against LGBT people, as though there is no mutual acknowledgment of each other’s human dignity. Finally, it ignores the fact that many people are both Muslim and LGBT, and an integral part of both communities. In the same way, the president sees “religious liberty” as incompatible with equality for all people; the faith community and the LGBT community cannot coexist and are incompatible in his eyes. To him, there are only winners and losers — one group’s rights can only exist if another’s are taken away. Not only is this un-American; it fails to acknowledge the intersectionality at the heart of our national identity.
We cannot let this administration and its enablers divide us. That’s why as the executive directors of Equality California and the Muslim Public Affairs Council, we have come together in a call not just for unity among Muslim and LGBT people, but for action. Muslims are part of the LGBT community, just as LGBT people are part of every community, including the Muslim community. When our Muslim brothers and sisters are singled out by this administration for attack, it is also an attack on our LGBT brothers and sisters, and we must mobilize to oppose it. That is why we are calling on members of the LGBT and Muslim communities, and our allies as well, to stand together against efforts to divide and target any group of Americans as “other” or un-American.
As intersecting communities, we cannot withstand alone the onslaught of federal power that will surely be brought to bear against us. It is only together, along with our allies, that we can ensure that our government lives up to the ideals enshrined in our founding documents.
RICK ZBUR is the executive director of Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBT civil rights organization. SALAM AL-MARAYATI is president and cofounder of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.