Muslim-majority Indonesia deeply regrets US immigrant vetting plans

Protesters gather at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas on Jan 28, 2017.
Protesters gather at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas on Jan 28, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (REUTERS) – Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said on Sunday (Jan 29) the Muslim-majority nation deeply regrets President Donald Trump’s plans for “extreme vetting” of people from some Muslim countries entering the United States under new immigration orders.

In a far-reaching order that caused chaos and confusion after it was signed late on Friday, Trump put a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and temporarily barred travellers from Syria and six other Muslim-majority countries.
Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population, is not among the seven nations whose citizens face restrictions.

However, when asked about Trump’s plans for “extreme vetting”, Marsudi said in social media message sent to Reuters: “We have deep regrets about the policy.”

In December 2015, Trump called for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States. The idea drew fire for suggesting a religious test for immigrants that critics said would violate the US  Constitution and later evolved into a proposal for “extreme vetting”.

Most of Indonesia’s 220 million Muslims practise a moderate form of Islam, although the country has some vocal Islamist groups and has suffered in the past from attacks by militants.

Indonesia has close relations with the United States and many of its citizens think highly of former US President Barack Obama, who spent part of his childhood in Jakarta.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said after Trump’s inauguration he was optimistic that relations between the countries would strengthen, to the benefit of both.

Foreign Minister Marsudi said Indonesians seeking visas to go the US had not faced any problems so far. She said there were “hundreds of thousands” of Indonesians in the US.

A statement on the website of the Indonesian embassy in Washington  urged its citizens in the US  to stay calm, but keep vigilant.

It said Indonesian citizens should respect US laws and help ensure public order in their neighbourhoods, but also that they should understand their rights in case of any issues and directed them to the website of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). 

The ACLU sought and won a temporary stay on Trump’s order to restrict travellers with passports from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Trump told reporters in the White House’s Oval Office on Saturday that his order was “not a Muslim ban” and said the measures were long overdue.