US Appeals Court Rules Trump's Immigration Order Violates Rights of Muslims

President Donald Trump’s executive order-based travel ban against people from six Muslim majority countries violates the US Constitution by discriminating against people on the basis of religion, Virginia's 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals said in a ruling on Thursday.

In a 9-4 decision, judges from the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals said that its examination of the executive order, along with official statements by the president and other officials were "unconstitutionally tainted with animus toward Islam."

The ruling was the second by a federal appeals court to challenge the travel ban, signed by President Trump last fall.

The US Supreme Court agreed to allow the executive order's restrictions to go into effect amid ongoing litigation, but is expected to hear arguments on its legality starting in April. The court is expected to rule on the matter in late June.

Presidential Proclamation 9645, signed by Trump in September, restricts entry into the US for persons from eight countries, including Chad, Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Somalia, as well as North Korea and Venezuela.

In December 2017, the San Francisco-based US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that President Trump's third immigration order exceeded the scope of his authority. According to the court, the president's interpretation of Article 8 of the Immigration and Nationality Act deviated from legislative history and prior executive practice, and the president did not have the constitutional powers to adopt the order.

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Trump & 55 Muslim-majority states sign pact pledging 34,000 troops to fight ISIS in Iraq & Syria

The US and Middle Eastern countries have backed a new pact that promises to provide extra troops for defeating Islamic State, singles out Iran for destabilizing the region, and says that Riyadh is to become the heart of the region’s counter-terrorism operations.

Described as the Riyadh Declaration, the document was signed following US President Donald Trump’s visit to the Saudi capital for a summit that brought in Islamic representatives from 55 countries, and vowed “to combat terrorism in all its forms, address its intellectual roots, dry up its sources of funding and to take all necessary measures to prevent and combat terrorist crimes in close cooperation among their states.”

U.S. President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (R) May 21, 2017. © Jonathan Ernst

“The leaders welcomed the establishment of a global center for countering extremist thought to take base in Riyadh, and praised the center's strategic objectives of combating intellectual, media and digital extremism and promoting coexistence and tolerance among peoples,” said the text of the document, published by the Saudi Press Agency.

The exact membership of what the communique called the Middle East Strategic Alliance will be decided next year, but putative members have committed to assembling “a reserve force of 34,000 troops to support operations against terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria when needed.”

Currently the burden of anti-IS combat in both states is being shouldered mostly by local troops and Kurdish forces, with the international coalition providing air support, equipment and funding.

Despite a stated desire for inclusivity and tolerance – the declaration advocates “a rejection of any attempt to draw a link between terrorism and any religion, culture or race, affirming their determination to protect and promote a culture of tolerance, coexistence and constructive cooperation among different countries, religions and cultures” – an entire third of the resolution was aimed specifically against Iran, a Shia-majority state, and its “sectarian agendas.”

READ MORE: ‘Encouraging’: Ivanka & Melania Trump praise Saudi Arabia’s progress on women’s rights

“The leaders confirmed their absolute rejection of the practices of the Iranian regime designed to destabilize the security and stability of the region and the world at large and for its continuing support for terrorism and extremism,” said the final communique, which also accused the Islamic Republic of running a “dangerous ballistic missiles program” and “continuing interference in the domestic affairs of other countries.”

While rich in specific epithets, the declaration broadly followed the agenda of Sunday’s Sunni-dominated Riyadh summit, and the speech delivered by Trump, which mentioned Iran a dozen times, and accused it of “spreading destruction and chaos across the region.”

‘Drive them out’

Trump’s speech called on the leaders of the Muslim world to join their efforts in fighting terrorism and extremist ideologies, and pledged unconditional support to the US’s old and new allies in the region.

“Our goal is a coalition of nations who share the aim of stamping out extremism and providing our children a hopeful future that does honor to God,” Trump said.

“This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it. This is a battle between good and evil,” Trump adding, stressing that the Muslim countries should take an active role in this battle and make a choice that no one else can make for them.

“A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and extremists… Drive them out of your places of worship. Drive them out of your communities. Drive them out of your holy land, and drive them out of this Earth,” Trump said.

Israeli ministers concerned over ‘troubling’ US arms deal with ‘hostile’ Saudi Arabia

© Global Look Press

He then announced establishment of several international anti-terrorism centers, including two Riyadh-based groups joined by Gulf Cooperation Council members and co-chaired by the US that will be tasked with preventing the financing of terrorism.

Trump then went on to accuse Iran of providing terrorists with “safe harbor, financial backing, and the social standing needed for recruitment” as well as of being “responsible for so much instability in the [Middle East].”

He blamed Tehran for aggravating the Syrian crisis through what he called a “destabilizing intervention,” before calling on “all nations of conscience” to “work together to isolate Iran, deny it funding for terrorism.”

Trump separately thanked King Salman, the leader of the Saudi Arabia, for his “massive investment in America, its industry and its jobs” as well as for “for investing in the future” of the Middle East, as he spoke about a recent arms deal signed by the US and Saudi Arabia, which is worth $350 billion over 10 years, with nearly $110 billion to take effect immediately.

READ MORE: Trump strikes arms deal with Saudis worth $350bn, $110bn to take effect immediately

While news agencies of the Gulf States presented the news on the signing of the alliance as a milestone event, critics were not impressed with the facade, saying it all boiled down to pragmatic interests, notably those of the US military-industrial complex.

Trump’s speech was “all about defense procurement,” Martin Jay, a Beirut-based journalist and a Middle East expert, told RT, adding that Trump basically told all the Muslim leaders who attended the summit that the US would support them as long as they bought US weapons.

READ MORE: America’s cash cow: ‘Trump does not value the Saudis, only their money’

“What [Trump] was basically saying to all of these [leaders], some of whom had poor human rights records in their own countries, is that the [US] does not care about their human rights records and does not care about what they do to their own people and would even help them stay in power… if they buy American guns,” Jay said. 

Tehran’s initial reaction to the Riyadh declaration and Trump’s speech was sarcastic, with Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeting: “Iran – fresh from real elections – attacked by @POTUS in that bastion of democracy & moderation.”

Zarif then wondered if the anti-Iran text could be explained by: “Foreign Policy or simply milking KSA of $480[billion]?”

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Trump signs new immigration order

President Donald Trump has signed a new executive order placing a 90-day ban on people from six mainly Muslim nations.

Iraq - which was covered in the previous seven-nation order - has been removed from the new one after agreeing additional visa vetting measures.

The directive, which includes a 120-day ban on all refugees, takes effect on 16 March.

The previous order, which was blocked by a federal court, sparked confusion at airports and mass protests.

What is different about the new order?

Citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, the other six countries on the original list, will once more be subject to a 90-day travel ban.

Iraq was taken off the banned list in the first order - which was issued on 27 January - because its government has boosted visa screening and data sharing, White House officials said.

The new directive says refugees already approved by the State Department can enter the US. It also lifts an indefinite ban on all Syrian refugees., such as former US army translator Hameed Darwish, will no longer be subject to a travel ban, according to reports / Reuters

Green Card holders (legal permanent residents of the US) from the named countries will not be affected.

The new order does not give priority to religious minorities, unlike the previous directive.

Critics of the Trump administration had argued that this was an unlawful policy showing preference to Christian refugees.

Green Card holders (legal permanent residents of the US) from the named countries will not be affected.

The new order does not give priority to religious minorities, unlike the previous directive.

Critics of the Trump administration had argued that this was an unlawful policy showing preference to Christian refugees. Tillerson: "President Trump is exercising his rightful authority to keep our people safe"

What does the administration say?

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly held a joint news conference on Monday morning to discuss the new directive.

America's top US diplomat said the order was meant to "eliminate vulnerabilities that radical Islamic terrorists can and will exploit for destructive ends".

Mr Sessions said that, according to the FBI, more than 300 people who entered the US as refugees are under investigation for potential terrorism-related offences.

The top US prosecutor said three of the countries were state sponsors of terrorism.

The other three, Mr Sessions said, had lost control of territory to militants such as the Islamic State group or al-Qaeda.

Mr Kelly added that unregulated and unvetted travel was putting national security at risk.

He said the US cannot tolerate "malevolent actors using our immigration system to take American lives".

None of the cabinet secretaries took any questions after the press conference.

Analysis - Anthony Zurcher, BBC News, Washington

Donald Trump has, at last, unveiled his new immigration order, and it looks like government lawyers - and not just White House political operatives like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller - have had their input.

Gone are the most controversial measures of the old order, such as preference for Christian refugees and the suspension of existing visas and green cards.

The details of the action's implementation are outlined with greater clarity this time, with more than a week before the new rules kick in.

It's still an open question as to what, if anything, this order will do to prevent violent attacks on US soil, given that past high-profile incidents have not involved individuals from any of the six named countries.

Mr Trump promised bold action on border security, however - the kind of move that would unnerve traditional politicians and anger civil liberties advocates.

Given the early reaction from groups like the ACLU and Democratic leaders, the story is unfolding as expected.

Although Mr Trump's campaign-rally talk of sweeping Muslim bans are a thing of the past, his supporters will likely revel in the uproar and consider this latest move a campaign promise kept.

Why the delayed implementation? Syrian family were reunited at Chicago's O'Hare airport in February / Getty Images

The new order is set to take effect on 16 March.

White House officials hope the 10 days' notice will help to avoid some of the chaotic scenes at US airports that occurred on 27 January when the first executive order was announced without warning.

Travellers with valid visas who were in the air at the time found themselves detained by border officials on arrival.

Mr Trump had defended the lack of notice, tweeting that "if the ban were announced with a one week notice, the 'bad' would rush into our country during that week".

Will the new executive order face legal challenges?

Yes. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman - the state's highest ranking law enforcement officer - issued a statement on Monday saying his office is ready to take the Trump administration to court.

"While the White House may have made changes to the ban, the intent to discriminate against Muslims remains clear," he said.

"My office is closely reviewing the new executive order, and I stand ready to litigate - again - in order to protect New York's families, institutions, and economy."

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), an Arab-American grassroots civil rights organisation, immediately called for donations to fight impending legal battles ahead.

"The ban is about xenophobia and Islamophobia," the group said in a statement to the BBC.

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97 US firms, including Apple & Google, lean on Trump travel ban in court

Nearly 100 American firms, including tech giants Apple, Google and Microsoft, have filed a legal brief supporting a case challenging the so-called ‘Muslim ban’, saying the White House’s restriction “is inflicting substantial harm on US companies.”

The ‘amicus curiae’ brief, which was filed with the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco on Sunday, supports a lawsuit brought by several US States to challenge President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning citizens of seven predominantly Muslim nations from entering the country.

The 97 companies backing the brief include tech heavyweights such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, Intel, Twitter, eBay, Netflix, and Uber, and also non-tech companies, including Levi Strauss and Chobani.

They argue that the executive order, which has been dubbed a “Muslim ban” by critics, hurts the American economy.

“The Order represents a significant departure from the principles of fairness and predictability that have governed the immigration system of the United States for more than fifty years—and the Order inflicts significant harm on American business, innovation, and growth as a result,” the brief says.

“The Order makes it more difficult and expensive for US companies to recruit, hire, and retain some of the world’s best employees. It disrupts ongoing business operations. And it threatens companies’ ability to attract talent, business, and investment to the United States,” it argues.

The document also highlights the role of immigrants and their children as innovators in America and questions the lawfulness of the ban.

The US tech sector has been amongst the most vocal in criticizing the executive order since it was signed by President Trump in December. The controversial move was blocked nationwide by a federal judge last week, angering the White House. The Trump administration unsuccessfully tried to overturn the block over the weekend and has until Monday to present arguments to try to convince the Court of Appeals to lift it.

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Trump’s travel ban sees White Helmets figures barred from Oscars

Two members of the controversial White Helmets organization that operates in Syria have been barred from attending the Academy Awards, the producer of a documentary featuring the NGO said. The film has been nominated for an Oscar.

White Helmets leader Raed Saleh and cinematographer Khaled Khateeb, both Syrian, were invited to the 2017 Academy Awards by Joanna Natasegara, the producer of a short documentary about the organization available on Netflix. The documentary film ‘The White Helmets’ has been nominated for an Oscar, along with four other contestants.

Natasegara expressed her outrage over the new development in a statement:

“They’ve been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize,” she said. “These people are the bravest humanitarians on the planet, and the idea that they could not be able to come with us and enjoy that success is just abhorrent.”

The travel ban for seven predominantly Muslim countries imposed by US President Donald Trump last week also affected acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, whose film The Salesman is nominated in the Foreign Language category, and Syrian woman Hala Kamil, the subject of Watani: My Homeland, another nomination for the short documentary award.

This is not the first time Saleh has been banned from entering the United States. In April 2016, he had to return to Istanbul after discovering that his visa had been cancelled by the US. This prevented him from receiving an award in Washington at a gala party supported by White Helmets sponsor USAID.

The White Helmets, who also call themselves the Syrian Civil Defense, have been touted as a non-political aid organization focused on saving lives in war-torn Syria. The Oscar-nominated documentary depicts them in line with that narrative.

Critics say it is a foreign-funded propaganda vehicle closely aligned with Islamist militant groups opposing the Syrian government. Members of the group have been accused of stealing vehicles, rescue equipment, and its very name from the government-run Syrian Civil Defense, an organization with a decades-long record of rescue operations in Syria.

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Hate crimes against Muslims surged by 67% in US: FBI

Hate crimes against Muslims across the United States spiked last year, according to new statistics released by the FBI, a rise which experts say was partially fueled by anti-Muslim rhetoric of Donald Trump, the US president-elect.  

Anti-Muslim hate crimes shot up 67 percent in 2015, compared with the year before, according to the bureau’s Hate Crime Statistics report issued on Monday. At least 257 of hate crime incidents against Muslims took place in 2015 while 154 happened in 2014.

“That is the highest number since 2001, when the al-Qaeda attacks on New York and elsewhere drove the number to its highest ever level, 481 hate crimes,” said Mark Potok with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a civil rights organization that tracks hate crimes.

“I wasn’t surprised to learn that anti-Muslim hate crime statistics spiked in 2015.” said Jordan Denari Duffner, research fellow at The Bridge Initiative, a research project on Islamophobia at Georgetown University.

“The official FBI statistics confirmed what many of us predicted – that anti-Muslim acts, many of them violent, were on the rise,” Duffner added.

Hate crimes overall grew by 6.8 percent in 2015 to a total of 5,850 incidents reported throughout the year, compared with the 5,479 incidents reported in 2014.

The FBI defines a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”

                                                     American Muslims attend a community event. (File photo)

Reports of hate crimes and racially motivated violence against minorities have further increased in the United States after the election of Republican candidate Trump as president.

There was a spate of hate crimes reported on social media and to police last week that targeted Muslims, Latinos and African Americans.

Trump’s supporters have been accused of numerous attacks following his election victory last week, including racist graffiti, death threats and physical assaults.

Trump’s campaign had been hit with many controversies since its inception in early 2015. He repeatedly made disparaging remarks against minorities in the US. His comments include a call to ban all Muslims from coming to America as well as stopping Mexican migrants by building a long wall along the US-Mexico border.

Despite all this, the billionaire businessman still managed to stun the world by defeating the heavily-favored Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, in the November 8 election.

Trump tells supporters to ‘stop it’

                                           US President-elect Donald Trump talks to CBS' "60 Minutes" program broadcast on Sunday/CBS

Trump told his supporters in an interview on Sunday to stop attacks against Latinos and Muslims.

“I am so saddened to hear that,” Trump told CBS’ “60 Minutes” program, when the host told him Latinos and Muslims were facing harassment. “And I say, ‘Stop it.’ If it -- if it helps, I will say this, and I will say right to the cameras: ‘Stop it.’“

Trump has been criticized during his presidential campaign for his inflammatory language against Muslims, immigrants, women and other groups.

The SPLC civil rights organization has monitored a rash of racially motivated violence in campuses around the country.

“I think this is absolutely clearly a result of Trump’s election,” Mark Potok, a senior fellow at SPLC, told the Guardian last week. “Donald Trump has ripped the lid off Pandora’s box.”

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Unesco Presents Volumes Devoted to Islamic Culture

Paris, Nov 14 (Prensa Latina) The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will, this week, present the last two volumes of the collection ''Different Aspects of Islamic Culture'', dedicated to the investigation of the Muslim tradition and its contributions to progress, the organization stated today.

According to a statement issued by UNESCO, 'Different Aspects of Islamic Culture' is a unique collection comprised of six volumes with more than 5,700 pages. It was compiled by more than 150 researchers and specialists, who were tasked with producing a comprehensive collection of 'knowledge on the complexity and diversity of Islamic culture '.

The materials 'offer to all interested persons knowledge and a pluralistic and global perspective of Islam and its contributions to progress,' said the statement.

The collection was launched in 1977 and covers 40 years of work by Muslim and non-Muslin experts. This week volumes I and VI will be presented.

Volume I, entitled 'The Foundations of Islam', explores the pillars of the faith, its principles, its conceptions of God and Man and the ideals that have marked the Islamic vision of the world through time and space.

Volume VI, which entitled is 'Islam in the World Today' penetrates into the practices of this religious community through a rigorous analysis of their economic, political and socio-cultural characteristics.

The rest of the volumes, previously published, focus on the status of the individual and society, science and technology, as well as culture and education in Islam.

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Before Her Murder, Jo Cox Worked on Anti-Muslim Violence Report

The slain MP was concerned about Islamophobic violence in her constituency, especially against Muslim women.

Jo Cox, the UK Labour MP killed on Thursday right outside her constituency office, was working on a report about violence against Muslims, especially Muslim women, the Guardian reported today.

Working alongside the Islamophobia watchdog Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks, or Tell Mama, she was going to address parliament later this month about the findings of the report.

RELATED: Syrian Activists Pay Tribute to UK Refugee Advocate Jo Cox

The study’s main conclusion was that there were about 80 percent more attacks against Muslims in the U.K. in 2015 than in the previous year.

“She met us to talk about how people could report attacks; particularly women in her constituency,” said the founder and director of Tell Mama, Fiyaz Mughal, to the Guardian Sunday.

“We were hoping she would highlight the impact on Muslim women; particularly given the targeting [that exists]. The majority [of incidents] at street level were [on] women and she was going to raise that," Mughal continued.

WATCH: Leaders of Both Politicial Parties Pay Respect to Slain British Lawmaker

Mughal added that while many attacks are never reported, Tell Mama expects to conclude that the U.K. saw 1,100 Islamophobic attacks in 2015.

Cox had also recorded a video that was to be used at the launch, in which she says she had discussions with Tell Mama’s staff on how best to tackle Islamophobia.

She also mentioned the situation in her constituency had gotten so bad that “many of our young women don’t feel safe when they’re out on the street”.


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