Donald Trump, U.S. Immigration and the Muslim World

January 29, 2016

If you have’t heard yet, Donald Trump is running for President of the U.S. Oh – and he’s going to make America great again! We’ll see about that… but the billionaire is famous for speaking his mind and it hasn’t seemed to hurt him in the polls yet. (He gets more media attention by ditching the most recent presidential debate than other candidates receive who actually show up… it’s a fascinating world…)

In December of 2015, the presidential contender was all over the media for his proposed immigration ban. Websites and journalist went wild with the “idea” that someone could put a ban on a group of people – in this case, a temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S.

Actually, for the record, this is exactly what Mr Trump said, according to a campaign statement (and according to CNN).  The statement read: “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” 

Now to put a little bit of context on the issue, the statement came on the heels of November’s horrific terror attacks by ISIS in Paris and after the ISIS-inspired terror attacks in San Bernardino, California, just weeks later. In addition, his immigration statement was released after ISIS revealed that it was using the refugee crisis in Europe to smuggle in ISIS gunmen. Oh…and one more thing, the FBI admitted that it was going to be tough to vet all the Syrian refugees coming into the U.S.

It’s worth noting that Jimmy Carter initiated his own version of immigration restrictions during the Iran Hostage Crisis in 1979 and Theodore Roosevelt suspended naturalization proceedings for Germans, Italians and Japanese the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. National security is not a new concept.

During this month of January, I’ve been teaching business and leadership courses in Afghanistan and Iraq. I thought it would be interesting to see how each of these groups – in Muslim-majority countries – “heard” the statements of Trump and how they perceive and processed these statements through their respective media.

You can see the complete survey results for Afghanistan HERE and for Iraq HERE. Some of the  more interesting findings are as followings:

Is Donald Trump Anti-Islamic? 

In Afghanistan, most people (55%) viewed Donald Trump’s statements on immigration as outright discriminatory and anti-Islamic. 1/3 of those surveyed felt the same way in Iraq. Only about 11% of Afghans thought his statements were reasonable given recent global circumstances. Twice as many Iraqis/Kurds (21.8%) felt the statements were reasonable. And after all, they’re battling ISIS up close and personal on a daily basis. (But still, only 21.8%??)

Did people recognize the emphasis on halting Muslim immigration as a “temporary” solution to a confusing global situation?

Most people “heard” Trump’s statement as “no Muslims allowed to immigrate to the U.S.” Period. Fifty-three percent of Iraqis/Kurds heard it this way. Sixty-one percent of Afghans heard it this way. Few heard or recognized the words “temporarily, until we can figure things out.” And of course, how one “hears” the media impacts the way one processes it and the attitudes that are formed towards others and groups in the world.

Which organizations or nations present the most danger to the world? 

When viewing Donald Trump’s statements through a lens of global fear and a desire to tighten security measures, I thought it would be interesting ask our survey responders who they thought were the most dangerous organizations or nations to the world.  According to the Afghans – the most dangerous country to the world is the good ol’ U.S.A. (36%) The Iraqis/Kurds gave the nod to ISIS, (48%) but the U.S. took second place with 22% of the vote. Yes, people, on average, the U.S. is viewed more as dangerous than Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Iran, Russia, the Taliban and Syria – at least to those in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Will there be an all-out ban on Muslims entering the U.S? 

I seriously doubt there will be a ban on any particular group of people coming to the U.S., but I can guarantee that during an election year in the U.S., security and terrorism are going to be topics of high priority. You can expect lots of talk about these issues and more scrutiny regarding immigration for a while. There won’t be a ban – but the bar of entry will be higher. And according to those that Global Next surveyed, making things harder for Muslims to enter the U.S. is an injustice. About 78% of both Afghans and Iraqis/Kurds believe that Muslims are either globally misunderstood or are taking the entire blame for a few bad apples.

To be sure, there are always misunderstandings where people, cultures and world-views are concerned. And while I am sure misunderstandings abound – the goals of organizations like Al-Qaeda and ISIS are not confusing at all – regardless as to whether they are categorized as Islamic or not.

See the complete surveys here:




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