On this anniversary of the Muslim ban, I can’t stop thinking about the 5-year-old American boy ensnared by the first iteration of the Muslim ban.
The still-unidentified citizen from Maryland was handcuffed and detained for hours, but the humiliation didn’t end there. Then-White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer attempted to defend the indefensible by erroneously labeling him a potential “security threat.”
I was about the Maryland boy’s age when I came to the United States from Lebanon. Like many of those impacted by the executive order, my family had traded the uncertainty of war for the safer uncertainty of a new home in what my parents called, in their native Arabic, “Amreeka.”
In the days after the Muslim ban was instituted, I watched images of Muslim immigrants speaking to reporters after hours of detention and questioning.Again and again, reporters asked the travelers variations of the same question: “What do you say to America?”
“I love the American people,” they responded in a diversity of languages and dialects representing the gradations of a Muslim community globally impacted by the newly-inaugurated American president’s first Muslim ban. That order, subsequently struck down by the courts, suspended resettlement of refugees and barred the entry of nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Exactly one year ago today, the Supreme Court allowed the full implementation of Trump’s Muslim ban. It would be months still before it heard oral arguments in Hawaii v. Trump and issued its ruling on June 26, allowing the ban to remain in place. But on Dec. 4, 2017, America began to ban millions of Muslims from the United States, even if they have family members, jobs, academic spots, or other compelling connections here, and even if they would otherwise be fully entitled to receive a visa to come here.
This day goes down in the history books, not only as an enormous failure to live up to our values of religious and racial equality, but for the real impact that the ban has on people’s lives. Take Anahita, who never got to say goodbye to her father in Iran before he passed away and did not even get to mourn with her family. Or Nisrin, who was detained during the chaotic implementation of the first Muslim ban simply because of her Sudanese citizenship, although she has lived in the United States for 25 years. Let’s also not forget the numerous students afraid to return home to visit their families because their visas may not be reissued. Or the families now traveling thousands of miles and spending thousands of dollars to simply be able to hug someone they love at a library on the border of Canada and the United States.
It’s the hate directed toward Islam that has motivated so many to enter the political arena.
For some Americans — those who support a travel ban, a wall along the Mexican border and increased restrictions on refugees, all while holding on to the ridiculous belief that the world’s 1.8 billion Muslim hate America, despite the fact that it’s home to nearly 3.5 million of us — that statement probably inspires fear.
In July, The Associated Press interviewed Muslim candidates about this record number. The reporting revealed that it’s precisely the bigotry and hate that has been directed toward Islam — including in remarks and tweets by President Trump — that has motivated so many Muslims to enter the political arena, where they now stand poised to advance policies that directly reflect their faith and also benefit all of their constituents.
Rashida Tlaib of Detroit, a former state representative and a daughter of Palestinian immigrants, would be the nation’s first Muslim woman in Congress. Ilhan Omar, a Somali-American and refugee from Kenya, is predicted to win in November, replacing Representative Keith Ellison in Minnesota.
Donald Trump’s travel ban, recently upheld by the Supreme Court, is wreaking havoc on Muslim families, forcing some Americans to leave the United States for countries in the midst of devastating wars in order to reunite with loved ones. The resilience ― and, among some Americans, popularity ― of the travel ban is emblematic of how enshrined Islamophobia has become in American culture. Even our highest court of justice has endorsed a discriminatory law rooted in misconceptions about the instability, oppression and violence of the Middle East and Islamic faith.
While many people blame these persistent misconceptions on mass-media depictions of Arabs and Muslims, that’s not where they begin. We need to examine the pervasiveness of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim information in the American education system ― and, in particular, in textbooks.
Most Americans’ exposure to the Middle East and Islam starts with what they learn in high school history class. World history textbooks in the United States only allocate around 3 percent of space to discussions of these topics. And the story those textbooks tell in that limited space is a disturbing one. My research on world history textbooks used across the country finds that sections about Islam and the Middle East advance a “rise and fall” narrative. That story goes like this: In the medieval period, the Middle East was a flourishing and advanced civilization, but due to an inability to modernize, the region has subsequently declined into chaos, oppression and violence. This sensationalized version of history reduces the region to a bygone society and fails to account for the vibrant and dynamic contemporary reality of the Middle East.
But let’s be honest. That line isn’t meant to reassure a wary world. It’s meant to make the people who type or utter it feel better. It’s as much a cop-out as it is false.
The travel ban may not be who you are. It’s not who I am. But it is who we — as a country — are right now.
We are a country that doesn’t want Muslims to come here. We are a country that doesn’t want people from Mexico or South America or Central America or Africa to come here. We are a country that wants people who weren’t born in America but have lived here and put down roots to leave, even if it means they’ll return to countries plagued with violence and poverty. We are a country that will intentionally separate mothers from their children as a means to deter non-white people from coming here, even if they’re facing certain death and seeking asylum.
That’s who we are. It gets dressed up in “we’re a nation of laws” rhetoric, but it is what it is, and the world can see it more clearly every day. No amount of denial will make that change.
The Supreme Court of the United States yesterday upheld President Donald Trump’s decision to institute a ban on immigrants, refugees, and visa holders from five majority-Muslim countries yesterday in a 5-4 decision.
The ruling did not come as a surprise to me.
I’m a lawyer, educator, and Muslim woman who focuses on racial justice. My work is all about interrupting the process of dehumanization that leads to crimes against humanity on marginalized groups. I’m devastated about the Supreme Court’s decision, but we saw this coming.
I often hear good-hearted people say that certain incidents are “un-American” or don’t represent “their America.” But suggesting this ban is unique erases our nation’s ugly history of anti-Muslim sentiment, one that sits within a larger picture of systematic racism against many other groups.
The “travel ban” — a term that sanitizes what is in fact a Muslim ban — is the latest in a series of policies that have targeted Muslims inaccurately seen as agents, or agents-in-waiting, of a dangerous foreign “ideology” that needs to be eradicated. These anti-Muslim narratives are sponsored by a million-dollar industry, pushing rhetoric like the takeover of “sharia law” in America through “think tanks” like the Center for Security Policy that provide fodder for conservative commentators like Newt Gingrich.
Islamophobia is not simply interpersonal hatred or fear. It is a system of bigotry that identifies and targets those who are Muslim or perceived to be Muslim, no matter what their race or country of national origin.
(CNN)Less than a month ago, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Christian baker who refused to make a cake for a gay couple’s wedding, saying a state commission’s ruling against him was rooted in anti-religious hostility.
On Tuesday, in upholding President Donald Trump’s travel ban, five Supreme Court justices ruled that his critical statements about Islam and Muslims, both as a candidate and as chief executive, don’t matter.
Outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday, protesters and members of Congress accused the justices of adopting a double standard: one set of rules for white Christians and another for Muslims and other religious minorities.
“It’s an obvious contradiction,” said Rep. André Carson of Indiana, a Democrat who’s one of two Muslims in Congress. “It’s absolutely apparent that there is a double standard.”
In a sharply worded dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the high court’s decision on Trump’s travel ban sends precisely that message.
“Unlike in Masterpiece, where the majority considered the state commissioners’ statements about religion to be persuasive evidence of unconstitutional government action,” Sotomayor wrote, referring to the Christian baker’s shop, Masterpiece Cakeshop, “the majority here completely sets aside the President’s charged statements about Muslims as irrelevant.”
“That holding erodes the foundational principles of religious tolerance that the court elsewhere has so emphatically protected, and it tells members of minority religions in our country that they are outsiders, ‘not full members of the political community,’ ” Sotomayor added.
In the Masterpiece case, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority decision, said members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission “showed elements of a clear and impermissible hostility” toward the religious beliefs of Jack Phillips, the baker.