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Islam and the West ( 8 Feb 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Will President Biden repealing the Muslim Ban address the harm done by ex-President Trump’s Islamophobia, Demonization of immigrants, and White Supremacy

By Azadeh Shahshahani

Feb 05, 2021

Donald Trump became president on a platform charged with Islamophobia, demonization of immigrants, and white supremacy.

Now, President Joe Biden has begun to undo that. On his first day in office, Biden repealed the discriminatory Muslim ban, which has caused immense harm to Muslim communities in the U.S. and abroad.

Though its repeal is a step in the right direction, it is not nearly enough. We must acknowledge these harms and demand accountability for them. One powerful framework for demanding such accountability is people’s tribunals, which have proved effective in exposing human rights violations and pressuring state actors to take responsibility.

In December 2015, the Trump campaign first disseminated a press release “calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” On Jan. 27, 2017, during the first week of his presidency, Trump issued an executive order prohibiting travel into the U.S. for 90 days from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen and indefinitely suspending travel into the U.S. from Syria. The order also blocked refugee travel into the country for 120 days.

But Trump alone could not have accomplished this ban. He was aided by dozens of government workers, private lobbyists, and attorneys who implemented the ban and revised it so it would pass court muster.

Once the order was signed, the Department of Homeland Security jumped into action. Within days, it denied entry to hundreds of Muslims from the banned countries who found themselves stranded in U.S. airports or turned away before even boarding their flights.

Over the course of the next year, the Trump administration engaged in a legal battle as various human rights organizations challenged the constitutionality of the ban. Despite Trump’s subsequent revisions of the ban, federal judges in Washington, Hawaii, and Maryland issued rulings against its implementation, and in several instances, appellate courts affirmed those rulings. However, in December 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that a narrower version of the ban could take full effect, even while federal courts heard continued challenges. On June 26, 2018, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Trump and the government, holding that the ban was constitutional and that presidential powers gave Trump the authority to put into place such a restriction. The Muslim-majority countries affected by the version of the ban that ultimately went into effect were Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen.

People’s tribunals can be critical in cases like this one, where domestic courts have effectively sanctioned an act even though its enforcement has implicated the U.S. government in a number of human rights violations. People’s tribunals are forums for justice initiated by grassroots organizations, social justice movements, organizers, lawyers, and academics. These forums provide space to adjudicate charges against the state outside of the formal judicial system. Unlike proceedings that involve state bodies, such as congressional investigations or litigation, people’s tribunals are not beholden to government bureaucracy in their truth finding and exposing missions.

The format of these tribunals mirrors that of a trial—lawyers take up the roles of prosecutors and defense attorneys; community members, legal scholars, and judges act as jurors; individuals directly affected by the legislation or issue at hand come forward to provide testimony describing their experiences.

Though these tribunals do not hold legal authority themselves, they do help gather evidence that can later be used by judicial forums such as the International Criminal Court. The ICC has the authority to take on cases or launch investigations based on information that is brought to light through a tribunal. Alternatively, people’s tribunals can help develop stronger foundations to launch more effective, subsequent domestic federal investigations.

So, while people’s tribunals may not be the sole accountability mechanism appropriate to address the harms of the Muslim ban, they can play an important role in exposing human rights violations committed by Trump and those who aided him.

Further, these tribunals serve important accountability goals by “directing international attention to grave abuses of human rights in various countries” and by forcing governing bodies and the public to reckon with national histories. For example, in 2016, the International Tribunal for Democracy in Brazil “[called] attention to a situation quickly spiraling into fascism” when then-President Dilma Rousseff was unjustly impeached and former Vice President Michel Temer took over without holding elections.

The U.S.’s long history of white supremacy—and legislation, like the Muslim ban, that is built on this history—can be addressed in present day through tribunals, where witnesses can also make the case for remedy in the form of reparations.

Original Headline:  Repealing the Muslim Ban Is Not Enough. We Need Accountability.

Source: The Slate


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