In Solidarity with People Affected by the ‘Muslim Ban’: Call for an Academic Boycott of International Conferences held in the US

If you would like to endorse this statement, as I have, please go to the link given below. As of 4 February 2017, 13.00 GMT the letter has 6000+ signatures.

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 racialised 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.

Go to this link to endorse this statement.

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.

6 thoughts on “In Solidarity with People Affected by the ‘Muslim Ban’: Call for an Academic Boycott of International Conferences held in the US”

  1. I join this boycott call as a violation of the human rights of people who are forced to flee their country as a result of US actions in their country.

    Walter Fernandes

    Dr Walter Fernandes Senior Fellow North Eastern Social Research Centre Jagriti 2nd floor GMCH Road, Christian Basti Guwahati 781005 Assam, India

    Mobile: (0) 8761920176 Email: Website:


  2. Trump has started to implement his racist policies from the early days of his ‘ coronation’ as the US president. He started violating the water protectors and tribals rights of standing rock. He has now, banned entry of ‘ muslims’ from some Arab nations. While he is targeting Muslims and refugees in general, there may be doubts as to why did he not ban entry from Saudi Arabia or Kuwait, etc. The refugees are huge in the countries banned and the problem is created by USA over the years by nourishing ISIS and other fundamental outfits to counter Russia communism. Also, the countries banned have mainly shi’a sect Muslim population. So, his decision may be partisan in nature.
    His decision should be condemned all over the world


  3. Boycott of US economically, politically or culturally, constitute major part of struggle. As Gideon Polya said, the US is restricting over ninety percent of people in one way or the other ( Apartheid US eyes only five …Gideon Polya,, Feb 4).when South Africa implemented racist apartheid, only white countries like Australia, England, New Zealand had ties with it. Majority of nations did not have major ties. The struggles led by Mandela were supported by people world over. Similarly, US muslims, blacks, LGBTQ ,etc should be by the human rights activists as well as people of other countrues which do not come under his ban. India must lead the boycott of Trump policies and people should organise protests in large numbers against racists and imperialusts Trump suppirters


  4. To boycott or not? A really tough question, in most cases. Impossible one this time. After all, this is not South Africa; not even Israel. Not as yet. The ban is imposed through an executive order, already temporarily stayed by courts. A very large number of US citizens are already protesting against their own president.
    My feeling is: boycott is too extreme a step at this stage. If it consolidates into the state policy with little democratic protests within the USA, then may be one should advocate it. But right now? I am not too sure. Boycott US state functions, boycott anything related to the Trump administration. Absolutely. But boycott USA the country and academic conferences!
    Will I boycott American films, music, products? USIS library? Then, why equate the nation and its people so soon with this administration?
    If it became like the South Africa or the Israel, I would whole heartedly agree with the boycott. At this stage, I would think: No except to boycott the trump administration.


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