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Reflecting on the “Muslim Ban”

On January 27th, an executive order was signed by President Donald Trump to stop the entry of immigrants from seven Middle Eastern, predominately Muslim countries. These countries include Yemen, Somalia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Sudan. Although this ban has been one of the highlights of President Trump’s campaign promises, not many people were ready to see such an order pass. People across the U.S felt that the ban is nationalistically and religiously discriminatory.  Fortunately, President Trump’s executive order did not last long, the U.S. Court of Appeals suspended the ban and denied its reinstatement in a ruling made on February 3, 2017.

To say this angered many people is an understatement. Over the course of the week-long ordeal, an outpouring number of protesters in support of immigration and refugees entering the United States filled the streets and airports nationally. As a Muslim and proud Yemeni American, it was extremely heartfelt to see how many people were in support of their Muslim neighbors by opposing the ban of these countries along with government and elected officials who stood  up to against the ban, leading to its block by the court.

President Donald Trump and his administration stated that this ban is not against Muslims and insisted that these countries are a risk to American security. Many argue that the countries affected by the ban were not among those that were affiliated with the terrorist attacks such as 9/11 and Boston Marathon Bombing. Furthermore, arguments that counter the current protests claim that the ban was already initiated through the former presidential administration and it isn’t fair that people are protesting this now just because Trump signed the executive order to ban travelers from these countries on the list of “countries of concern”. Former President Obama did not ban a group of people from entry to the United States, President Obama halted the entry of a specific visa after an improper screening of visas of two individuals from Iraq took place. This was done   to strengthen the screening process, it is nothing remotely close to the “Muslim Ban” that has been put into place.

Furthermore, many political figures in both parties did not agree with the ban. They believe not only does it undermine our constitution; it is also legitimizing harmful language that will further the divide in our country.

Republican Charlie Dent in an interview with the Washington Post says,

“This 90-day ban could imperil the lives of this family and potentially others, and it’s unacceptable, and I urge the administration to halt enforcement of this order until a more thoughtful and deliberate policy can be reinstated.”

Republican Senator Jeff Flake  said, “Enhancing long term national security requires that we have a clear-eyed view of radical Islamic terrorism without ascribing radical Islamic terrorist views to all Muslims.”

Republican Justin Amash talks about the ban and said, “President Trump’s executive order overreaches and undermines our constitutional system.” In addition, Republican Senator Susan Collins said,

“A preference should not be given to people who practice a particular religion, nor should a greater burden be imposed on people who practice a particular religion. As I stated last summer, religious tests serve no useful purpose in the immigration process and run contrary to our American values.”

The details of the ban and to the extent it will reach the coming days even though his has been suspended will continue to be inconclusive, shocking, and challenging, not to mention that it was signed the same day as Holocaust Remembrance Day which was insensitive to Jews globally.  Jews know what this may lead to all too well from their own historical experience.
The last two weeks have been challenging, however, what I learned about my fellow Americans is no matter how much negative attention Muslims or immigrants are given through the media, my fellow Americans are willing to see beyond the rhetoric, fear mongering, discrimination, and stand together in the name of peace and justice. John McCain and Lindsey Gram had a very powerful statement on the ban where they said,

 “Such a hasty process risks harmful results. We should not stop green-card holders from returning to the country they call home. We should not stop those who have serves as interpreters for our military and diplomats from seeking refuge in a country they risked their lives to help. And we should not turn our backs on those refugees who have been shown through extensive vetting to pose no demonstrable threat to our nation, and who have suffered unspeakable horrors, most of them women and children. Ultimately, we fear this executive order will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism.”

 I will continue to work along my brothers and sisters in New York, Washington, or wherever needed to take to make sure America remains the land of freedom, opportunity, and justice for all. We’ve seen in history how targeting a group by their religion, like in the case of Jews resulted in the holocaust, and by ethnicity in the case of Japanese resulted in internment camps. These incidents have had a terrible long term effect and scar on humanity. Let us not repeat history.

I close with the words written on the plaque of the Statue of Liberty that reside with me and continue to give me strength, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”


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