Exactly one week after he was inaugurated, President Donald Trump signed an executive order barring nationals from seven Muslim-majority nations—Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen—from entering the United States for at least 90 days. Mass protests, wall-to-wall news coverage, and a series of legal challenges quickly followed.
Immigration lawyers and journalists camped out in the international terminals of airports around the country, seeking passengers from the affected countries as they arrived in a nation that appeared to have decided overnight that they were unwelcome. Judges in New York, Massachusetts, and Hawaii, among other states, temporarily blocked key provisions of the order; residents in these locales and elsewhere contested its constitutionality.
The president’s stated purpose was “to protect the Nation from terrorist activities,” and his focus was clearly on the Muslim world. Trump has a long-standing pattern of broadly equating Muslim people and Muslim terrorists—while at the same time seeming unable to see non-Muslim radical extremists for what they are. With the order that came to be known as the “Muslim ban,” Trump swore that he was focused on terrorism. But even by the president’s own logic, the ban was curious in its scope: He ignored the country that produced the vast majority of the 9/11 hijackers. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers on September 11, 2001, were Saudi Arabians, yet Saudi Arabia was not on Trump’s list.