Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Religious Discrimination Is a Reason to Fight Trump's Travel Ban

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Religious Discrimination Is a Reason to Fight Trump's Travel Ban

Article excerpt

Religious discrimination is a reason to fight Trump's travel ban


This article was originally published on The Conversation, an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts. Disclosure information is available on the original site.


Author: Raymond B. Chiu, Postdoctoral Associate, Western University

When President Donald Trump first signed the executive order that put into effect the country's travel ban, he incited widespread outrage against what many believe was a blatant act of religious discrimination.

But recently we have been noticeably silent on the case against religious discrimination. Despite the religious undertones of the travel ban, the problem is often treated as an issue of mistaken identity rather than the systemic targeting of whole populations for their personal beliefs and affiliations.

The most that critics have done, both corporate and academic, is object on the basis of lost productivity, cultural representation, or talent.

Yet more fundamental to the debate is the nature of our human identity and dignity.

My U.S. boycott

At the start of the ban, I was doing research for my thesis exploring the cross-cultural nature of religious thought with the aim to understand the nature, role and importance of beliefs in everyday work situations. I was in an opportune position to reflect on the meaning of religious diversity in the public sphere.

My reflections led me to resist religious discrimination along with thousands of academics who had also taken a stand on the issue. I withdrew a paper on my thesis research from a management conference and decided to boycott all future conference travel to the U.S.

The true issue at stake is an essential aspect of human experience, referred to as religiousness. Prominent scholars such as Peter Hill, Kenneth Pargament, and Linda Mercadante tell us that it doesn't matter whether you consider yourself religious or spiritual, we all base our lives on ideas we consider to be significant or sacred.

It is more important to appreciate this transcendent aspect of who we are than to label the religion to which we belong.

By accepting the travel ban discourse, we presume that the political and ideological ideas of terrorism are somehow directly tied to an intimate aspect of our daily experience: our faith or the spiritual side of our lives.

We are more same than different

Through interviews of people from the world's major faith traditions, my goal was to understand the nature of religious thought in work life. I found that everyday religious beliefs are based on common human experience rather than ideological difference.

Crucial situations -- what I refer to as "work-related existential uncertainties" -- sometimes force us to question who we are in front of others and why we're living a certain way. Our self-image may be threatened, or important relationships may be strained. We may need to rethink our career path, or resolve issues in the practice of our work.

Religious difference is rooted in the beliefs and values that are configured differently based on the culture we grew up in. Yet they are applied to the same dilemmas that we all face.

At the core, we are more the same than we are different. Since people share the same basic needs and problems in life, our religious ideas are all connected in some way at a deeper level.

I have the privilege to participate in cross-border collaboration and the perks of conference travel. But I was compelled to reconsider whether I should accept a benefit not afforded to large segments of the population because of a basic aspect of their humanity.

We share a deeper connection

In my research I also discovered the types of religio-spritual beliefs associated with people's common experiences. Quite a few religions see observances as having an important role in bringing transcendence to work experience. …

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