Trump and speaking truth to power

We face a difficult and dangerous future. The Greens did not welcome Donald Trump into office and we oppose most of his policies. Recent events have shown that many people across the world feel the same. In the face of attacks on our values, we need to build strong ties with like-minded allies across the world, defending the principles of peace, justice, human rights and environmental responsibility.

Like many New Zealanders, I have been alarmed by the harsh measures levelled at Muslims, through bans on citizens from 7 countries (Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen) for three months, an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees, and a temporary ban on all refugees. Fortunately, courageous judges have overturned these restrictions, at least temporarily.

They don’t make sense. There have been no attacks over the past 15 years on US citizens by immigrants from any of these seven countries, whereas there have been repeated killings by immigrants from US allies like Saudi Arabia. Most of the seven countries have been bombed or destabilised by the US or its allies, and these policies add insult to injury. Their civilians are in need of support and sanctuary, not retribution.

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Even though many of the 200 million people in these countries are not of the Islamic faith, this is a policy that explicitly targets Muslims, particularly when put alongside the views of the new National Security Adviser, General Michael Flynn who has described all forms of Islam as a cancer and “a political ideology” that “hides behind a religion.”

Two days after the Executive Order, a gunman opening fire on Muslims praying in a mosque in Quebec City, killing six people, wounding five and terrorising the entire Muslim community. This is the latest in a series of hate crimes that have escalated in the US and other countries since Trump’s incitement of anti-Islamic views during the US election campaign.

The measures put in place by President Trump undermine the norms of a civilised world. They are contrary to the UN Refugee Convention, established in the wake of the Holocaust, and other UN humanitarian and human rights laws. These are the agreements that we established, long ago, to protect the rights of civilians, particularly when they are vulnerable. They need to be defended.

Speaking out

This is the time when non-Muslims must speak up. To paraphrase the powerful warning by Pastor Martin Niemöller about the policies of Nazi Germany, “First they came for the Muslims, and I did not speak out because I was not a Muslim.” Soon they will come for us.

These policies are abhorrent to most New Zealanders. Leaders from around the world have denounced the policies, including Canada’s Justin Trudeau, Germany’s Angela Merkel, France’s Francois Hollande and Pope Francis.

But the reaction from our new Prime Minister has been muddled and weak. Bill English apparently mentioned the immigration restrictions in a conversation with Trump, but his priority is “primarily to maintain a good relationship with the US”. This is presumably so we can get a Free Trade Agreement that even he admits would not be in our interests. Or perhaps it is because we might lose our subservient role in the Five Eyes group. What are the values that Bill English will defend?

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Other Trump attacks have included funding cuts for international agencies engaged in family planning and health aid, and cuts for humanitarian aid. Trump has signalled that he will withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change and reinstate fossil fuel projects such as the Keystone XL and the Dakota Access pipelines. Our government has failed to speak out any of these issues, apart from their obsessive pursuit of trade deals.

By not speaking out, we become complicit, part of the problem.

The Greens strongly oppose these anti-Muslim, anti-environment and anti-human rights policies. We would speak out against these policies and share the burden of leadership with leaders of like-minded countries.

The Greens would also take action to support the people affected. Our co-leader James Shaw’s Members Bill would double the refugee quota and we would look to welcome refugees affected by this arbitrary ban. We would work with like-minded countries and New Zealand NGOs to help fill gaps in humanitarian aid and support for NGOs whose funding has been cut. We would strongly defend the Paris Agreement on climate change. And we would make it clear to Muslims in New Zealand, and people from all cultures, that we value their social, cultural and economic contributions to our multicultural society.

That’s real leadership.