The Muslim Ban Is Finally Gone—3 Travelers Share What That Means for Them

The ban split up families, made many travelers feel uncomfortable, and took away numerous opportunities.


On Inauguration Day, President Joe Biden signed the Proclamation on Ending Discriminatory Bans on Entry to the United States, overturning former President Donald Trump’s 2017 “Muslim ban.” The executive order, which prompted protests across the U.S., had banned foreign nationals from Muslim-majority countries including Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, Iran, and Somalia. (Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela were later added.) It sent a stark message of discrimination to not only Muslim Americans, but Muslims around the world, many of whom found themselves separated from family members and loved ones.

We spoke to three Muslim travelers about how the four-year ban impacted them—and their expectations for traveling in a post-COVID world.

Fahima Abdi is a Somali stay-at-home mother based in London. She has often faced anxiety about traveling to the U.S.

“My family and I were refugees that escaped from war, so we created a life that we thought would be better and have traveled the globe. However, with my husband being American and my daughter having dual citizenship, the Muslim ban was a constant stress. I was always separated for extra screenings—even while traveling with my toddler. It’s hard enough traveling with a baby, but then you find TSA has no sort of empathy for a crying baby, sifting through my personal belongings and making me repack them, without help, simply because of my name or the fact that I wear hijab. 


The many ways Muslim prisoners are denied religious rights in prison

Rick, an African American and Muslim prisoner, was in a correctional facility in a Midwestern state when he tried to obtain a Quran for worship. His request to the officer in charge was denied. But when he was told the price for it, he was shocked — it was far more than he could afford, and, significantly, was two to three times more expensive than a Bible.

“I just couldn’t afford to buy the Quran, or anything else, for that matter,” he says, as he was denied a Quran multiple times.

Rick, whose last name is being withheld to protect his privacy, resorted to secretly borrowing a copy of the Quran from another inmate. When guards were passing by, he had to quickly make sure they did not see it.

“The discrimination is so real. All that matters is your background and the color of your skin,” he says.

The United States currently incarcerates more than 2 million people, who are predominantly Black and Latinx, with almost half a million of these people being held on pretrial bond known as bail. Unfortunately, Muslim prisoners, in particular, are largely left out of the conversation. Muslims are overrepresented in state prisons, making up 9 percent. The significant presence of Muslims in prison stands in stark contrast to Muslims’ share of the US population as a whole, which is just 1 percent.

Muslim prisoners face many of the same issues as other incarcerated people, including hindrances to basic necessities and hygiene such as toothpaste, deodorant, or female sanitary products. But they also face unique discriminatory practices, such as lack of fair access to religious material in prisons. This is despite federal laws that require equal access to religious materials. Unfortunately, discrimination in prisons has been a longstanding issue, with multiple lawsuits attempting to resolve this; nevertheless, Muslims continue to face difficulty.


In Britain, Jews are leading fight against oppression of China’s Uighur Muslims

(JTA) As the leader of British Jewry’s main human rights group, Mia Hasenson-Gross regularly hears personal stories of loss, grief and helplessness.

But few encounters have affected Hasenson-Gross as profoundly as the one she had in 2019 with Rahima Mahmut, a U.K.-based activist for the rights of Uighurs, a Muslim minority that is the target of what the U.S. State Department and many advocates say is an attempted genocide by the Chinese government.

Mahmut shared that she has not spoken in over four years with the family she left behind in 1997 following an earlier government crackdown on Uighurs called the Ghulja massacre in which dozens were killed. Mahmut does not know whether her siblings are dead or alive, she told Hasenson-Gross.


Muslims and Christians come together to repair Denton (Texas) mosque

A GoFundMe started by a Denton church has raised close to $50,000 for the Denton Islamic Society damaged in the winter storm.

DENTON, Texas — Muslims and Christians are coming together in a big way, to help fund repairs at the Denton Islamic Society. The mosque suffered tens of thousands of dollars in damages by the winter storm.

“It makes you feel good about the community you live in,” said Faraz Qureshi, president of the board of the Denton Islamic Society.

The First United Methodist Church of Denton started a GoFundMe, which raised close to $50,000 in six days. 

“People really from all over the world are sending in donations,” Qureshi said. “Honestly it restores faith.”

The donations will pay for repairs to the building, but also so much more, as the outpouring of support comes from Christians and Muslims, but friends and neighbors.


Sudan’s interfaith event lauded amid opposition

A Sudanese businessman Sunday defended hosting an inter-faith event to promote religious tolerance in the Muslim-majority country that also included Jews, Christians and Hindus.

Critics from an Islamist group had argued such events would heighten tensaions a month after Sudan’s landmark decision to normalise ties with Israel in a US-brokered deal.

Businessman Abu al-Qassem Bortoum defended the event, held Saturday under tight security in a Khartoum hotel, as “a bid to break the psychological barrier” between Islam and other religions, in a country now undergoing a political transition.

Sudan, he said, was moving on a path to “freedom, peace and justice by renouncing hate speech, violent discourse and religious discrimination to achieve unity, tolerance and social coexistence”.

Bortoum had organised the event where ushers wore T-shirts with the logo “Humanity Bridge Builders” and the Islamic crescent, Christian cross and Jewish Star of David symbols.

Rabbi David Rosen of the American Jewish Committee had told the meeting by video link from Jerusalem that “the pursuit of our understanding of one another is precisely what enhances peace in the world”.

Invited guests included diplomats, a member of Sudan’s ruling council, Raja Nicola, as well as members of the country’s Christian and Hindu communities and Sudanese descendants of Jewish families.

Ahead of the gathering, an Islamist group affiliated with the opposition National Umma Party, Al Ansar, had warned the meeting was being staged amid “tensions between advocates of normalisation with Israel and those who reject it”.


Forced marriages, conversions contrary to Islamic teachings: Ashrafi

ISLAMABAD: The forced marriages and conversions to Islam were against the teachings of Islam, Special aide to Prime Minister on Religious Harmony and Middle East, Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi said Thursday.

Addressing, ‘National Interfaith Women Conference’ held under the aegis of Church of Pakistan and Interfaith Harmony Councils, Ashrafi, who is also Pakistan Ulema Council chairman urged minorities living in Pakistan not be intimidated as the state will stop those who try to harm them.

The honor and status bestowed on women by the Holy Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W) is unmatched anywhere else.

Islam is the protector of the rights of minorities and state was responsible to ensure the protection of the rights of every Pakistani living in the country.

Responding to a question, he said killing of any non-Muslim or damaging their property has nothing to do with Islam. The killer of a non-Muslim doctor who was killed in Peshawar has been arrested.

Elements accomplice in terrorism and extremism activities in the name of Islam are not making any service to Islam and are not friends of Islam.


Christians, Muslims and Jews to share faith centre in Berlin

€47m building will feature a church, a mosque and a synagogue all linked to a central meeting space

On the site of a church torn down by East Germany’s communist rulers, a new place of worship is set to rise that will bring Christians, Jews and Muslims under one roof – and it has already been dubbed a “churmosquagogue”.

The foundation stone of the House of One in Berlin will be laid at a ceremony on 27 May, marking the end of 10 years of planning and the beginning of an estimated four years of construction, and symbolising a new venture in interfaith cooperation and dialogue. The €47m building, designed by Berlin architects Kuehn Malvezzi, will incorporate a church, a mosque and a synagogue linked to a central meeting space. People of other faiths and denominations, and those of no faith, will be invited to events and discussions in the large hall.Advertisement

“The idea is pretty simple,” said Roland Stolte,  a Christian theologian who helped start the project. “We wanted to build a house of prayer and learning, where these three religions could co-exist while each retaining their own identity.”


First female Muslim chaplain graduates from Air Force Chaplain Corps College


First Lt. Saleha Jabeen, the U.S. military’s first female Muslim chaplain, graduated from Air Force Basic Chaplain Course Feb. 5 at Maxwell Air Force Base.

The graduation ceremony for BCC Class 21A was a historic event as the Air Force aims to foster a more diverse and inclusive service.

Jabeen, a native of India, said she was grateful for the opportunity and aware of the responsibility she has to set an example and show that there is a place in the military for anyone who wants to serve.

“I did not have to compromise on any of my religious beliefs or convictions,” Jabeen said. “I am surrounded with people who respect me and are willing to receive what I bring to the table as a woman, a faith leader, and an immigrant. I am provided with numerous opportunities to learn and develop skills that best equip me to be a successful officer and a chaplain in a pluralistic environment. I get to provide spiritual care to all service members, Guardians and families and advise the commanders on religious and moral matters regardless of my faith, ethnicity or gender. Like our boss says, it has never been a better time to serve as a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force Chaplain Corps.”

All BCC students have advanced degrees and many arrive at the Chaplain Corps College with years of experience as members of the clergy as civilians. Throughout the course, Jabeen and her classmates are instructed how to apply their prior experience within the Air Force.

“My goal is to create chaplains who are ready to provide front-line ministry upon graduation,” said Capt. John Richardson, Air Force Chaplain Corps College staff chaplain. “They are trained to lead the units they serve spiritually. The bottom line is to care for Airmen — every single Airman. When they care for Airmen in a professional way, every other aspect of our calling falls into place: advising leaders and providing for the religious needs of our force.”

Capt. Mara Title, Air Force Chaplain Corps College staff chaplain, believes the newly-graduated students are ready to provide for the spiritual needs of all Airmen across the force, and said Jabeen’s addition to the chaplain corps will be of great benefit to everyone.

“The Air Force Chaplain Corps endeavors to promote diversity in all respects,” Title said. “Chaplain Saleha Jabeen’s presence enables an even broader scope of spiritual care for our Airmen, and for this we are very grateful. She is as determined to take on the role of chaplain as she is kind, caring and compassionate. We are thrilled to have had the opportunity for her to graduate with the class of BCC 21A.”


Bestselling new book tells story of Europe’s forgotten Muslims


February 19

  • “Minarets in the Mountains” highlights continent’s “indigenous Muslim heritage,” Hussain said
  • It is among Amazon’s bestselling travel books on pre-sales alone

LONDON: “Minarets in the Mountains” traces the roots of Europe’s little-known native Muslim populations, and in telling their story cuts to the heart of what it means to be a European and a Muslim in the 21st century.
Acclaimed travel writer Tharik Hussain made a name for himself covering Saudi Arabia’s hidden touristic treasures and tracing Britain’s ancient Islamic heritage, but his latest book tells a very different story.

He told Arab News that his new book is the very human tale of his family holiday across the Balkans — a fun and light-hearted trip taken with his wife and children, but one that prompts readers to contemplate and confront longstanding myths about European and Muslim identity, and the relationship between the two.

“I wanted to bring to the attention of the mainstream the idea that Europe has an indigenous Muslim heritage,” Hussain said.
He and his family toured Serbia, Croatia, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Kosovo, meeting locals and exploring the roots of Muslim populations that date back centuries.

But unlike his previous European trips, such as to the south of Spain to write about the long-lost Islamic civilization of what was then called Al-Andalus, this trip was very different — it explored a Muslim culture “that’s alive and thriving today,” Hussain said.


Attempt in Saudi Arabia to restore and reform Islamic law is welcome

There can be no doubt that these reforms signal a major theological shift, and if implemented successfully, will prove to be a watershed moment in the history of Sunni Islam.

It would appear from recent reports that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, is making good on his 2017 promise that he would return the country to a moderate Islam and “eradicate promoters of extremist thoughts.” Last month, The Washington Post disclosed that the kingdom had started purging its textbooks of anti-Semitic and misogynistic content, and this month Reuters revealed that four new laws — the personal status law, the civil transactions law, the penal code of discretionary sanctions and the law of evidence — are being finalised with the ultimate aim of codifying the entire Muslim law in consonance with the principles of shariah and best international practices. Saudi women have welcomed the move, with lawyer Dimah Al-Sharif expressing the hope that it will empower both women and society in general.

There can be no doubt that these reforms signal a major theological shift, and if implemented successfully, will prove to be a watershed moment in the history of Sunni Islam. The crown prince’s announcement is also a courageous attempt to break the state-ulema nexus that has been the cause of Muslim intellectual and economic backwardness for centuries — a fact convincingly exposed by scholar Ahmet T Kuru in his new book Islam, Authoritarianism and Underdevelopment. It was this nexus that buttressed the post-Prophetic Muslim expansionism started by Muawiya in 661 CE with the launch of the Umayyad Caliphate. Questionable traditions (hadiths) were fabricated in the name of the Prophet to scripturally entrench the dynastic ambitions of the ruling family. These hadiths otherised rival tribes and communities, and marginalised women.