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Interfaith group questions Rep. Dunn on immigration ban

By Collin Breaux, For News Herald, On 08 February 2017, Read Original

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About 20 representatives from different congregations and organizations participated in a conference call Tuesday with Rep. Neal Dunn to question him on his support for Donald Trump's immigration ban.

PANAMA CITY - In reaction to an immigration ban that has led to division around the country, some local residents banded together Tuesday to show their support for the Muslim community and decry the president's executive order.

About 20 representatives from different congregations and organizations - including the Jewish community, NAACP and Unitarian Universalist Fellowship - attended an interfaith meeting at the Bay County Islamic Society (BCIS) for a conference call Tuesday with Rep. Neal Dunn to question him on his support for Donald Trump's ban.

The executive order, passed Feb. 3, banned for 90 days entry to the United States for citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. It also suspended America's refugee program for four months and called for a review of the country's vetting process. The ban has been temporarily suspended, however, after a Washington state judge on Friday halted its enforcement. The case now is in federal court and could be headed for the Supreme Court.

Dunn previously has said the ban was "common sense" to set a temporary pause on immigration from countries that are "bases of Islamic terrorism and recruitment" and that terrorists want to use immigration and refugee laws as a "Trojan horse to come here and kill Americans."

"We find it problematic, not just the Muslims but your constituents in this room, that someone of your caliber would come out and make these statements and claim terrorists are using the refugee as a Trojan horse," said Hiba Rahim, the Northwest Florida regional coordinator for the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Florida (CAIR). "We view that as fear-mongering rhetoric that divides our nation."

Dunn responded that the ban was a preventive measure and that the community has known him long enough to know he isn't racist or biased. He also said the Obama administration didn't vet refugees thoroughly enough, a point on which Rahim disagreed. She added no one from the seven countries banned had killed anyone in America but that Saudi Arabia, which produced several terrorists including the 9/11 attackers, was not included in the ban.

"I will say that while no one from these countries has killed anyone; it's actually to prevent anybody from being killed," Dunn said. "It's not retribution, it's a preventive and temporary thing."

He added Saudi Arabia had been cooperative with America and was vigilant in policing terrorism on its own but did admit, "I know this thing was not rolled out in the smoothest of all possible ways."

The ban adversely affected green card holders, said Dunn, adding he and his office wanted to collect stories from such people encountering delays coming home.

The call was allotted 20 minutes, after which Dunn said he was running late for another meeting and turned the phone over to an aide, who gave an email address for people to send their concerns. As Dunn got off the phone, Rahim said she hoped he would change his stance.

After the call, BCIS Imam Amr Dabour reinforced that Muslims condemn any acts of terrorism or violence and often actually the victims of such acts.

Tim Warner, deacon for St. John Catholic Church, said the call was productive and everyone was respectful of each other, adding taking the time to talk about the ban was important.

"We all want to make sure America is safe, but we have to respect American freedom and the dignity of each person," Warner said.

Glenwood Working Partnership Chairman William Swift echoed Warner and said the Trump administration spreads pervasive hate. He said considering his own ancestors were brought to America on slave ships, he empathized with the persecution Muslims are feeling.

"This is wonderful that we came together in support of opposition to an attack on humanity," Swift said. "This Muslim ban is an attack on humanity."