Muslim Conservative party members, including a Tory peer, have called for Donald Trump to revoke his executive order cracking down on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, as they say it will only serve to "please ISIS/Daesh and other enemies of cooperation."
The letter was sent to the US charge d'affaires to the UK and signed on behalf of the roughly 1,000 members of the Conservative Muslim Forum (CMF) by Lord Sheikh, the CMF's president and founder. It says the travel ban the president ordered last week "does not make America a safer place".
"Instead, it will please ISIS/Daesh and other enemies of co-operation between Muslims and non-Muslims, and feed the narrative of religious strife," it goes on.
The CMF sent the letter on 30 January, a day after it was claimed that Nadhim Zahawi, the Iraqi-born Tory MP for Stratford-on-Avon, would also be affected by Trump's plans. Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, earlier this week assured Brits they would not be affected, even those with second passports from the countries included in Trump's ban.
The letter, co-signed by CMF chairman Mohammed Amin, reads: "We are writing because both of us are friends of the USA. No countries have done more to embed freedom, democracy and the rule of law into the modern world than the UK and the USA.
"Against that background, we ask you to convey to your President our deep concern regarding this EO."
It goes on to acknowledge that while Trump's executive order does not name Islam or Muslims, "all of the countries have Muslim majorities, and there is widespread acknowledgement both inside and outside the USA that the order is aimed at Muslims."
It warns the policy will separate families, adding: "It is seriously injurious to lawful residents of the USA seeking to return home.
"It damages the reputation of the USA as a beacon for non-discrimination and treatment of people on individual merit. Instead, with no warning, a wide class of people have been prohibited from lawful entry (or re-entry) into the USA."
The letter says the executive order harms the security of both the US and the UK, "by emboldening those voices preaching division, and alienating Muslims whose support we need in fighting terrorism."
Speaking to BuzzFeed News, Amin said that after the US election results in November he had co-written a letter with Lord Sheikh to the US ambassador "pointing out there were significant concerns about some of the things Donald Trump had said on the campaign trail."
"After the travel ban was announced there was immediate worldwide concern including [among] Muslims," he said.
"There are many people around the world who were expressing concern, Nadhim Zahawi being one of them, but many others also, we had our own concerns."
Asked about the fact that prime minister Theresa May was the first world leader to visit Trump, Amin said: "The executive order was signed by Trump on the Friday of that week and, if memory serves, the day May was visiting him. Until we had seen the executive order there was nothing to comment on.
"There had been a debate about this in parliament this week and expression of concern from many people in the UK, and the UK government is obviously aware of those concerns."
Amin added: "We don't feel the need to write a letter from us to Theresa May. She's obviously aware of widespread concerns among British Muslims.
"The key thing is when people have concerns, they should express them, they should do so politely, and writing to the US embassy is something many more British Muslims should do to make them aware how they feel."
BuzzFeed News has contacted the US embassy in the UK for comment.
The Conservative Muslim Forum statement in full:
Dear Mr Lukens
The Conservative Muslim Forum is a voluntary grouping within the British Conservative Party.
Our nine formal aims are set out in our constitution, but they can be distilled into the statement that we encourage British Muslims to engage in the democratic process in our country by voting, joining political parties and standing as candidates, with a particular emphasis on supporting the Conservative Party. Our membership, and our Executive Committee, consists of both Muslims and adherents of other religions. More information about us is available on our website, details at the foot of this letter.
On Friday, President Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) restricting immigration.
Amongst other provisions, it prohibits for three months entry into the USA of people from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. We understand that this EO applies to people who are already lawful residents of the USA holding a “green card” who will not be allowed to re-enter the USA if they were overseas when the EO was made. We also understand that the EO has been challenged in court, and that U.S. District Court Judge Ann Donnelly has stayed removals from the USA under the EO pending a substantive trial of the issues.
We are writing because both of us are friends of the USA. No countries have done more to embed freedom, democracy and the rule of law into the modern world than the UK and the USA. Against that background, we ask you to convey to your President our deep concern regarding this EO. Amongst other matters:
- It feeds the narrative of ISIL/ Daesh that there is irreconcilable conflict between America (and by extension other liberal democracies) and Muslims. While the EO does not name Islam or Muslims, all of the countries have Muslim majorities, and there is widespread acknowledgement both inside and outside the USA that the order is aimed at Muslims. Not least because as a presidential candidate, Mr Trump proposed a ban on Muslims entering the USA.
- It is seriously injurious to lawful residents of the USA seeking to return home. In many cases, it will separate parents from children who are American citizens, and separate green card holding spouses from husbands and wives who are American citizens.
- It damages the reputation of the USA as a beacon for non-discrimination and treatment of people on individual merit. Instead, with no warning, a wide class of people have been prohibited from lawful entry (or re-entry) into the USA. Damaging America’s relationships with not just citizens of the countries listed, but with Muslims everywhere, harms the security of the USA, and the UK, by emboldening those voices preaching division, and alienating Muslims whose support we need in fighting terrorism.
Overall, this EO does not make America a safer place. Instead, it will please ISIS/Daesh and other enemies of co-operation between Muslims and non-Muslims, and feed the narrative of religious strife.
Our advice to your President is to rescind this EO immediately, and to consult widely within the USA regarding measures that will make the USA a safer place, rather than playing into the hands of our mutual enemies.
Yours sincerelyLord Sheikh
Aisha Gani is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Aisha Gani at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.