The lack of unity stems from an old problem: Muslim leaders pay lip service to the “ummah,” or global community of Muslims, but are more often driven by narrow national interests — even when faced with grave actions seen as an affront to their own people.
“They don’t have a strong basis of legitimacy at home,” said Rami G. Khouri, a senior fellow at the Issam Fares Institute at the American University of Beirut. “They are delicately perched between the anger of their own people and the anger they might generate from the American president.”
Still, Mr. Trump’s executive order — which froze all refugee arrivals in the United States and barred the entry of citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days — has sent a whirlwind of confusion, anxiety and fury across the Middle East and Africa. Refugees have been turned back at airports, families separated indefinitely and long-planned trips upended.
“I thought in America, there were institutions and democracy,” said Fuad Sharef, 51, an Iraqi Kurd bound for New York who was turned away from the Cairo airport with his wife and three children on Saturday morning. “This looks like a decision from a dictator. It’s like Saddam Hussein.”