On Tuesday February 7, 2017, The Carter Center’s Forum on Women, Religion, Violence, and Power hosted a virtual roundtable on the impacts of recent U.S. travel restrictions on peacemaking efforts around the world. Panelists included Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini, founder of the International Civil Society Action Network and Rabia Chaudry of the United States Institute of Peace. The panel was moderated by The Carter Center’s human rights program senior policy advisor Karin Ryan.
The panelists began with a discussion of the executive order’s interpretation and current legal challenges. Ms. Chaudry pointed out that the order could be much more far-reaching that originally intended. In her opinion, signs point to these restrictions expanding rather than being temporary as the Trump administration has declared. Chaudry also questioned the constitutionality of the order, saying that many believe it violates the Establishment Clause, which prohibits government services giving preferential treatment to specific religions. Ms. Chaudry said that many issues have yet to be litigated on this order.
Both panelists discussed people impacted by the order. Ms. Naraghi-Anderlini made the point that in addition to Muslims, Zoroastrians, Baha’i, and other minority religions were also negatively impacted. Ms. Chaudry followed this point with the fact that no Syrian has ever committed a terrorist attack on U.S. soil and that some countries which had produced terrorists were not included on the ban list. Ms. Naraghi-Anderlini asserted that this fact was indicative of racist overtones rather than ethnocentric meaning as it is effectively impossible to ban Muslims in a globalized world.
One important impact of the travel restrictions is the problems that these restrictions pose for peace building efforts. Many who work in the field of peace building are unable to travel and do their work due to fear of being detained or even deported. Ms. Naraghi-Anderlini expounded upon this feeling, saying that she felt stuck here at home because of the stamps in her passport showing her work in many of the targeted countries as well as her dual citizenship between the UK and Iran.
The panelists also discussed the statements published by Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham, which predicted that the executive order would become “a self-inflicted wound” because it sends a message that Muslims are not welcome in the United States. The authors believe that this will create more hatred and fear in the Middle East and be counterproductive to the “war on terror.”
The panelists delved into an important discussion of countering violent extremism (CVE) movements. Ms. Chaudry described CVE as programs that counter extremist ideology, as opposed to counter-terrorism movements, which are defensive and fight only against attacks rather than the motivation behind them.
Ms. Naraghi-Anderlini made the point that we are living in an “age of extremism”, saying “extremism begets more extremism.” She described a feedback loop where violent extremism from international jihadism, for example, spawns a white nationalist movement in the United States, which creates more hatred from the people being “othered.”
In order to counter the fear that creates violent extremist ideology, the panelists suggested several ways for peole get involved and help create a more peaceful world. Ms. Naraghi-Anderlini said that it is incredibly important to create personal relationships with people different from yourself. Both panelists described the importance of supporting CVE programs, particularly those led by females. Ms. Naraghi-Anderlini made the point that the most vulnerable groups are often the most vocal. Ms. Chaudry said that we should have a vision for the country we want and work towards long-term goals. Ms. Ryan mentioned several organizations to support and asked that we continue to work towards peace-building in any way we can. USIP and The Carter Center will be supporting the International Day of Peace in September, which will provide opportunities to learn about and participate in building peace around the world.