February 5, 2017
President, United States of America
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President,
Greetings. This is the second week and second letter in my attempt to write to you every week of your Presidency. It’s a discipline I followed during part of the Presidency of George W. Bush. It’s partly to share my perspectives with you—which in his case and yours come from a place of respectful dissent—and partly for my own spiritual good.
The second week of your Presidency has been defined by your executive order to ban Muslims from seven nations from entering the United States. I say it is a “ban” because you have repeatedly referred to it as a ban, though your surrogates insist it is, actually, a “pause.” Which it is, in reality, time will tell. Given what is relatively easy to surmise from your campaign statements and the published interviews with your advisors, especially Steve Bannon, I’ll go ahead an anticipate it will be more in the range of a “ban.”
I’ve been trying to follow the logic of your Muslim ban, to see if it is rooted in truth and reality. So far, I can see there is logic to it, but not logic that reflects reality as most people understand and accept it.
It is logical for people to be afraid of mass violence fomented by extremist ideologies. It is true that extremist ideologies are at work among people who call themselves Muslims. But the same is true of Christians: we know that extremist ideologies, like neo-Nazism and white supremacy groups in the United States, have fomented gross atrocities in our homeland. It is not logical, therefore, to presume that people of Muslim faith from the Middle East are more likely to terrorize our citizens. In fact, crime and terrorism statistics do not support your logic.
As I see it, the tragic flaw in your Muslim ban is the false assumption, fomented by people you have uncritically listened to for years, that Islam is evil. Beyond being deceived into thinking Islam is evil, it appears you have been led to believe that Islam is not a valid religion. It seems you see it, rather, as an ideology that threatens the West. In presuming and demonizing Islam as an evil ideology, you and your advisors are both misled and misleading. A change of mind and heart is desperately needed.
I grew up conservative Evangelical and heard, repeatedly, in church and Sunday School that Islam was violent, evil, and not real religion. Ever since, I have progressively learned through university and seminary studies and extended conversations that this is not true. My earliest teachers were wrong and they misled. Islam is a peace-loving, peace-promoting faith--no less than Christianity. Could it be that the same wrong/false teachings/assumptions about Islam in Evangelical church circles has directly or indirectly misinformed you and your advisors?
You call for “extreme vetting” for Muslim refugees, apparently without knowing the extent to which these refugees are currently being vetted in an 18-month to two-year process by the capacities of the United States. As part of your “pause,” please learn firsthand of the extent to which our public servants have been and are making America safe. Applaud their efforts; do not disparage them.
To reduce fear and violence, responsible leadership that people at home and abroad will come to respect will carefully discern between faith and violent extremism, between valid religion and radical ideologies—both at home and abroad.
Along with millions of fellow Americans, I am very concerned that your Muslim ban is having many unintended consequences that far outstrip your original intentions. Unless you intended to say to all Muslims, “we do not want you, we suspect you, we will oppose you,” your policy is badly missing the mark. But, if alienating the Muslim world from America is your intent, you certainly have hit that mark.
You can do better. We deserve better.
John Franklin Hay