A couple of days ago, before I knew about this international campaign, I had discussed my extreme discomfort about visiting the USA under these circumstances with two sets of scholars who had worked very hard to put together separate international conferences to which I had been invited. They are deeply involved in the protests themselves, and they understood my decision to withdraw.
This is the mail I wrote to them:
With deepest apologies for the inconvenience caused to you, I would like to state that in solidarity with the protests all over the USA against President Trump’s Executive order halting travel from seven Muslim-majority countries and suspending the country’s entire refugee program, I will not travel to the USA. I hold a valid ten year visa, I am not from one of the seven countries, and am not Muslim. It is precisely this that impels my decision. I refuse to exercise the contingent privilege I hold at a time when the fates of thousands of people traveling to the US is uncertain. The very possession of such a “privilege” I find humiliating under the circumstances, and of course, deeply unjust.
At the same I respect the decision of those of your invitees who might use this privilege to travel to the US to make their protests and express solidarity by speaking there.
As we in India struggle against a similar Islamophobic, corporate-driven and anti-democratic regime, I express my solidarity with all of you.
Meanwhile there are differences of opinion on whether boycott is the answer. Helen McCarthy opens up the debate here:
…for non-US academics who travel regularly to the US to participate in scholarly meetings, this latest measure presents a dilemma of a very particular kind: should we continue to participate in conferences held in the US which many of our colleagues, including British academics with dual citizenship, may be prevented from attending?
This is not an abstract question. I am myself in the process of making a panel submission for a conference to be held in Denver in November. Others already have places confirmed and flights booked for major events taking place in the coming months. Should we change our plans in solidarity with our banned colleagues, or would doing so only isolate US-based scholars whose critical voices are needed now more than ever?
I do not suggest there is an easy answer. I took one kind of decision. I do not imply there is no other ethical position to take.
On 27 January 2017, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order putting in place a 90-day ban that denies US entry to citizens from seven Muslim majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia. So far, the ban includes dual nationals, current visa, and green card holders, and is affecting those born in these countries while not holding citizenship of them. The Order also suspends the admittance of all refugees to the US for a period of 120 days and terminates indefinitely all refugee admissions from Syria. There are indications that the Order could be extended to include other Muslim majority countries.
The Order has affected people with residence rights in the US, as well as those with rights of entry and stay. Some of those affected are fleeing violence and persecution, and have been waiting for years for resettlement in the US as refugees. Others are effectively trapped in the US, having cancelled planned travel for fear that they will be barred from returning. The order institutionalises racism, and fosters an environment in which people racialized as Muslim are vulnerable to ongoing and intensifying acts of violence and hatred.
Among those affected by the Order are academics and students who are unable to participate in conferences and the free communication of ideas. We the undersigned take action in solidarity with those affected by Trump’s Executive Order by pledging not to attend international conferences in the US while the ban persists. We question the intellectual integrity of these spaces and the dialogues they are designed to encourage while Muslim colleagues are explicitly excluded from them.