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Author Reza Aslan Says Executive Order Has Already Affected His Family


Throughout the hour, we're getting reaction to the spate of executive orders signed by President Trump in his first week in office. But first we return to our focus on the immigration order limiting refugee resettlement and banning entry to citizens of certain countries.

We want to hear now from the Iranian-American scholar Reza Aslan. He's an author and scholar on the subject of Islam and Christianity, as well as a television producer. We wanted to get his take on recent events as a U.S. citizen with family members in one of the countries now banned from entry. Reza Aslan, thanks so much for joining us.

REZA ASLAN: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: When you first heard about the executive order, do you remember what your reaction was?

ASLAN: I wasn't surprised. I mean, the fact of the matter is that President Trump has made it very clear throughout his candidacy precisely what he was going to do. He has talked about putting together an all-out Muslim ban. He's talked about creating a database for Muslims in the United States. He has threatened to send American citizens to the prison at Guantanamo Bay. He has stacked his Cabinet and his advisers with avowed anti-Muslim zealots, some of whom are - belong to actually officially designated hate groups. This is part of a process that he has vowed to put in place as president.

MARTIN: Do you feel that it will affect you or relatives of yours?

ASLAN: It has already affected me and my relatives. I have numerous relatives in the United States who are green card holders. They are in a state of confusion, unsure whether they can leave the country and come back, visit family. And then, of course, I have family in Iran, including an uncle who has a visa, who was on his way to the United States, who cleared all of the legal hurdles necessary to reunite with his family here in America, and who is now stuck in limbo, unsure whether he'll be allowed in or not.

MARTIN: How do you feel that persons of like minds such as yourself should address this, given that a number of people do support him, given that he is the president of the United States, given the fact that many people think he's right?

ASLAN: I think first and foremost, we need to respond to those people with the facts of the situation. You have almost zero chance of being killed by a refugee in this country. That you have almost no chance of being killed in a terrorist attack by an immigrant - by any kind of immigrant, let alone an Islamic immigrant. But more importantly than that, we need to actually address the fear that is at the heart of President Trump's support. You know, authoritarians tend to consolidate support by using fear, but more importantly by driving a wedge among the people that he wants to control.

And we can't allow that. We have to remember that the United States has certain principles, certain values that bind us all together, that make us all American. And if we allow those values, those rights to be rescinded for one group of individuals, then we are essentially opening the door to having all of our rights, all of our privileges rescinded. The values that we hold dear are being trampled upon by the man whose entire job is to enforce those values.

MARTIN: That was Reza Aslan. He's a professor and author on the subject of Islam and Christianity. He's also host of the upcoming CNN original series "Believer," which explores religious communities around the world. We reached him in Los Angeles. Reza Aslan, thanks so much for speaking with us.

ASLAN: Thank you, Michel, my pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.