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29 January 2017updated 30 Jan 2017 11:16am

Donald Trump’s visa ban is an attack on what it means to be British

If those born in “undesirable” countries are banned from the US, the message is that they can never truly be British citizens.

By Helen Lewis

There are many reasons to oppose the Trump administration’s “Muslim ban” – which targets those from seven majority-Muslim countries including Yemen, Somalia and Iraq.

It’s arbitrary – why those countries and not Saudi Arabia, where the majority of the 9/11 hijackers came from?

It’s cruel – across US airports yesterday those affected spent hours trapped in limbo while officials tried to work out the exact implications of the ban.

It’s probably unworkable – there is still a great deal of confusion about the status of dual citizens, and what exactly the rules are for those with citizenship of an “approved” country who were born in an “unapproved” one. Nadhim Zahawi, a British citizen (and Conservative MP) born in Iraq, says he has had confirmation that the restrictions would apply to him. The ACLU has already started a legal challenge, and legal experts are concerned that the executive order appears to be hastily and sloppily composed.

As well as the horrible practical effects, the idea behind it is horrible too. 

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Citizenship is one of the best models of identity we have. It says we are not prisoners of birth – characteristics we didn’t choose. With citizenship, you contribute – pay taxes, take part in civil society – and in return you become part of a whole, a community.

If this order bans British citizens who just happen to have been born in eg Somalia or Iraq, it says they’re not really UK citizens. It says they’ll never escape the taint of being born in an “undesirable” country. It says they’re not – and can’t be – fully British.

The obvious inference is that it springs from a worldview where Muslims are not, and never can be, citizens of the west.

And I’ll bet Islamic State have clocked that, and there’ll be a lovely colour feature in the next Dabiq magazine – their in-house journal – to that effect.

To which I say: sod off. Mo Farah is as British as I am. Nadhim Zahawi is as British as I am. Thousands of Britons who will be affected by this simply because of their place of birth are as British as I am.

This ban is nothing less than the Trump administration trying to redefine who is, and isn’t, truly British. We should oppose that as strenuously as we can.

This blog was based on my tweets from earlier. Follow me here for more.

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