And so Trump is getting the wall he wanted after all.
Although it isn’t a physical wall, it is a barrier even harder to climb than concrete and barbed wire. It now takes the form of a Congress-approved policy. As July 4th has come and gone, many people of color in the United States question what there is to celebrate while videos of children of immigrants representing themselves in courtrooms or crying out for their parents in cages on the border spread across social media like wildfire. Across the United States, protests calling for #FamiliesBelongTogether and #NoMuslimBanEver have been ongoing.
On June 26, the US Supreme Court approved in a 5-4 decision Executive Order 13769, colloquially called the Muslim Ban or Travel Ban. The order, titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States”, singles out mainly Muslim-majority countries, including Iran, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, North Korea, and also countries with sizable Arab-speaking diasporic communities such as Venezuela. It is important to note that this is not the first time the Supreme Court has approved this policy. On December 4, 2017, the Supreme Court allowed Trump’s order to go into effect even though there were still legal challenges in the process of being addressed.
Although the policy-makers approving the order claim it is for safe vetting procedures and due to a lack of collaboration with the U.S.’s security restrictions, these banned countries have had very little, if any, terrorist activity in the United States. In fact, since 9/11, white Americans are the biggest terrorist threats we see today.
Many Muslims, whom many attest to already being targeted at airports, now live with an institutionalized order that brings those fears to the forefront, especially for those who have family in affected countries.
Hana Alasry, a Yemeni-American Muslim community organizer based in Detroit, said, “I think the biggest thing that I’ve been reflecting on is as the lawmakers, courts... are debating back and forth with several iterations of the ban coming through, the complexity of the back and forth really doesn’t mean much to immigrants from that country, most of whom aren’t familiar with how the US laws work.”
“They know one thing and one thing only: here’s a national ban that says they’re not human enough to enter this country. That’s that. They’re not interested in higher-level debates about this versus that part of the legislation. They just want humanity,” Alasry said.
Locally in Madison, Muslims and faith leaders have spoken out against the Muslim ban in recent days.
Maria Ahmad, co-founder of Book-A-Muslim, mentioned in a phone-interview how her husband, Syed Umar Warsi, is concerned about going to visit his family in Pakistan, a country that had formerly been on the ban list. She added that because of his long beard and name, his profile makes him all the more susceptible to additional targeting.
Ahmad, speaking to Muslim youth seeking guidance, advised: “Realize this is where you live. There is no need to apologize.”
Ahmad added that Muslims will “always be othered unless you’re a white, Christian male.”
She encouraged youth to find community in order to find other people to go through this together. Echoing the feelings of many POC communities in the U.S right now, Ahmad mentioned that the “America for the people by the people” doesn’t seem too accurate right now, but if we engage and get involved politically and locally, we can make change happen.”
She also encouraged community organizers to be more accommodating as Muslim allies in the movement, and gave an example of a rally in DC for Muslim rights where no prayer times or spaces were accommodated for. (One of the five pillars of Islam is prayer, and Muslims are encouraged to pray five times a day).
She concluded with: “Learn about the people you are being an ally with versus simply doing what you think is the right thing to do.”
Sheikh Alhagie Jallow, Islamic leader in Madison, said that the Supreme Court -decision was very unfortunate and sad, and that every Muslim “is affected either directly or indirectly”. He noted: “Most of the countries that are being banned are also being targeted. They have nowhere to escape to.” He added that the mentality of many of those who are fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria or Yemen is that of saving their own lives.
Jallow remained optimistic, however. “Whatever Allah (Arabic term for God) puts, a good result will come out of it, insha’Allah (God-willing).” He continued by saying, “As Muslims, we must always be positive, and look to the story of the Prophet (Muhammad).” The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, was persecuted in his own home city of Mecca and forced to flee. The Quraysh, the most powerful tribe in Mecca, had forced Muhammad and the early Muslims to leave because they saw Islamic beliefs and values as a threat to their own political reign. Jallow ended on on a hopeful note, “What were the results after 20 years?” Islam had become successful and accepted by many. “The situation is either with us or against us… let’s just be positive.”
Rabbi Bonnie Margulis, President of Wisconsin Voices for Justice, issued a press release on June 26, declaring that the organization is “dismayed and distressed” at the Supreme Court’s decision. She concluded with, “As people of many different faiths, many of whom have ourselves faced discriminatory immigration policies throughout history...proclaim solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters. We will continue to work for understanding and to build bridges among our various faith communities and to work against the forces of discrimination and hate.”
“We are living in dark times”, Margulis said in a phone interview. Yet, she, too approached it with optimism in encouraging others to “know each other, learn about each other’s faith” as well as to remember that “no one is alone in this.”
If you are interested in becoming involved in issues relating to social justice, community organizing, and human rights, please consider donating and/or joining the Young, Gifted, and Black Coalition (YGB). YGB is a grassroots organization based out of Madison, WI, dedicated to assessing and addressing the needs of people of color locally through various mediums including journalism, workshops, and networking. For more information, visit www.ygbcoalition.org.