Muslim Advocates Urges Media to Reconsider Use of Term “Travel Ban” to Describe Anti-Muslim Executive Order

Washington, DC – The following is a statement from Scott Simpson, public advocacy director for Muslim Advocates, regarding the recent tweets of Religion News Service’s interim editor-in-chief, G. Jeffrey MacDonald, which dismissed the use of the term “Muslim ban” as “inaccurate” while preferring the use of the term “travel ban,” which he regards as more precise.

“We at Muslim Advocates have long been uncomfortable with the media’s use of the Trump Administration’s newly preferred shorthand  of ‘travel ban’ to describe the executive order banning millions of people, the indisputable super-majority of whom are Muslim, from entering the United States.

The assertion that ‘travel ban’ is somehow more precise not only bends over backwards to accommodate the administration’s legal arguments, it shows a real disregard for the people and families impacted by the ban, ignores the President’s clearly documented intent, and ignores what the executive order actually does.

The executive order is a ban on people, not a ban on the act of traveling. Under the executive order, citizens from many nations can and do still travel back and forth from the banned countries; so it can’t be a ban on the act of traveling. Its most significant impact is to prevent people–usually family members of US citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents–from visiting and immigrating to the United States and coming to live permanently with their families and communities here. The intent is clear: to stop Muslims from visiting or settling in the United States. The one thing that the super-majority of all people who are banned have in common is their religion, and that religion is Islam.

Some defenders of the term ‘travel ban’ have also bought into an absurd argument: that in order to be called a ‘Muslim ban,’ the executive order must ban every Muslim. This is not a ban of all Muslims, it’s a ban of only Muslims. The populations of Libya, Somalia, Iran, Yemen, and Syria are almost entirely Muslim. The addition of a few government officials from Venezuela seeking visitor visas and the very few North Koreans who can make it out of their country does almost nothing to dilute that this is a ban on Muslims.

This sanitizing of the Muslim ban removes the human element of the actual impact the ban has had on families, communities, and people. It’s not uncommon for the media to exclude the voices of Muslims in their coverage and reduce the ban to a slightly shifting list of countries that most Americans know nothing about. The dedication to the term ‘travel ban’ also ignores the massive increases in hate crimes and other discrimination American Muslims have faced since the President called for a Muslim ban during his campaign.

We urge the board of RNS, the editor who made this statement, and the media writ-large that covers this issue to take a look at the President’s actions, the President’s words, and the President’s executive order and be respectful to advocates for Muslims, refugees, and the millions of people who see this ban as naked religious discrimination.  

It’s a Muslim ban to us and to the countless American Muslims who are being denied access to their families, friends, and loved ones who face more hostility in their day-to-day lives than ever before as a direct result of this ban.”

Muslim Advocates is a national legal advocacy and educational organization that works on the frontlines of civil rights to guarantee freedom and justice for Americans of all faiths.