By Brii A. Williams, Medill, Immigrant Connect
In the short time that Donald Trump has been President, he has signed two sets of executive orders that impact directly or disproportionately on Muslims. In light of his
campaign pledge that the country has no choice but to call for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” it is not surprising that federal courts mentioned his campaign statements in striking down his Jan. 27 order.
Only a month after issuing the first executive order, the President on March 6 revised the order. The first targeted seven majority-Muslim nations – Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, the second took Iraq off the list. For those “countries of concern,” as the order designated them, no nationals can enter the U.S. for 90 days. Another provision suspended the admission of Syrian refugees until further notice, and suspended the rest of the refugee resettlement program for 120 days. In the Jan. 27 order, it stated that upon resumption of the refugee program, refugees claiming religious persecution in a country where they are in the minority would get priority. That was eliminated in the March 6 order, as was the singling out of Syria refugees for exclusion until further notice.
The revised order seemed to speak directly to the courts in noting that the original order “did not provide a basis for discriminating for or against members of any particular religion” and declaring that the countries of concern were singled out because they presented heightened threats, in that they are state sponsors of terrorism, have been significantly compromised by terrorist organizations, or contain active conflict zones.
Under either version, many Muslim-majority countries were not identified, and the only Muslims in the U.S. who would be directly affected by the orders are those who aren’t US citizen, but are nationals from the countries of concern and are planning to travel there and back for 90 days.
Still, the impression that the orders clearly left because of Trump’s own rhetoric was that Muslims were being singled out.
Being Muslim in America since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 has been defining; often emotionally wrenching and disheartening, yet sometimes welcoming. Though Islam is of course a religion and stigmatized by many as a dangerous or alien one, it is often depicted through the lens of race, driven by appearance rather than belief.
It is easier for people to assume someone is Muslim not by seeing them praying or engaging them in discussion about faith or beliefs but by noticing how they dress or the shade of their skin. In a polarized America, that alone can dictate how some Muslims are treated.
Rowan Hussein, a 19-year-old student at Northwestern University is a legal immigrant from Sudan, one of the six countries of concern. Luckily for her and her family, they have U.S passports and are rooted now in the United States. That doesn’t mean that she isn’t still affected by the travel limitations. “The ban is more than oh my family can’t travel. It’s the essence of it that I’m almost not welcome here and it’s irritating and annoying and frustrating,” Hussein says. She generally feels good about the way Americans and fellow students are supportive and respectful of the voice of Islam, yet she recognizes that people have become afraid of Muslims because of the way they have been portrayed in the media over the years.
Abubakar Adam, a 20-year-old college sophomore, is a practicing Muslim, but he is
Kenyan and does not fit the physical stereotype of what Americans typically think is a Muslim man. “I feel a lot safer considering it is harder for someone to discriminate against me for my religion because at first glance you wouldn’t think I am Muslim,” says Adam.
Muhammed Ullah from the Downtown Islamic Center in Chicago thinks that President Trump is instilling the fear of Islam into people’s hearts unnecessarily.
Ullah feels that in order for everyone to feel safe in his community, they have to bond with other communities who also need help. He says that they have been allying with people who have the same mindset as those who are affected by the ban by connecting with women, Hispanics, refugees, and anyone else who believes in democracy and justice. He wants everyone to know that in order to help and fight against injustice, everyone has to stand in solidarity against it.