In this political climate, many Americans keep hailing that America right now is not the America they know. They recall an America that would never elect a racist person into office, an America that would never stand behind destructive regimes, an America that boasts diversity, freedom, and would never infringe on those rights. Unfortunately, the America that they’ve created in their mind is not the real America. They seem to forget that America was founded through genocide, slavery, and xenophobia. All these things transpire today, they have just evolved. Living in a country in which its leader upholds and implements all these terrible qualities into it, leads to the hatred becoming more overt.
I can’t speak for all of Muslim America because I am just one person, but I can say that the majority of us agree that although it has never been easy for us to live in America, especially in a post 9/11 era, with Trump being in the highest position of power in this country, it has become much harder.
What comes to mind is the legislation that Trump continues to implement. Most notably the travel ban, aka “Muslim ban,” which targets majority Muslim countries is a significant issue we face. I researched the Muslim ban back in February while I was in D.C. and interviewed people both inside and outside of the government on how they felt about the ban. I asked them if they thought if it was even necessary for the ban to be revised, and has it served any purpose to the national security of the country? The consensus was that the ban was just another piece of xenophobic rhetoric and doesn’t solve any security problems that America holds. Unfortunately, the United States Supreme Court, the highest judicial power in America, has ruled that the ban is justified and is within the president’s powers despite its targets.
A similar ban/agency that affects the lives of Muslims living in America is the current immigration ban and the work of ICE, a group that is hell-bent on ridding the country of “illegals.” Due to media portrayal, people think that ICE and the immigration situation merely affects Mexicans and other South Americans. However, it affects immigrants from all over the world. If you’re brown, they want to take you down, no matter where you have come from.
For example, recently a man named Banny “Papa” Doumbia was detained by ICE Detroit and was deported back to the Ivory Coast where he immigrated from.
He has lived in Detroit for many years and was a respected community, black Muslim leader. His detention is uncalled for because he has gone to every single ICE check-in required of him. And yet they took him anyways. Earlier this year Syed Ahmed Jamal, a chemistry professor in Kansas City and immigrant from Bangladesh, was also detained by ICE. These people have come to America to make a better life for themselves and their families, they are highly respected and educated, but they’re not immune to the terror that ICE and the Trump administration continues to spread.
Immigration is a black issue, a white issue, and a Muslim issue. We as a community need to speak out collectively against what ICE and the Trump administration for their actions toward those who stay at the border, and behind what the media allows us to know. We also mustn’t divide ourselves based on ethnicity and race. Solidarity amongst our brothers and sisters is what makes us stronger if we are divided nothing can get done.
Having this heightened hate in both ideology and legislation makes one self-conscious. Although I live in a town that is diverse, when I leave for work or other activities, I have this niggling feeling that I must always be looking behind my back, making sure no one is following me or wanting to hurt me. Living in a country where racists know, “the police works for them,” and that their president agrees with their views, it seems to me that they have become emboldened and perform hate crimes that they haven’t had the chance to before. Muslims and “Muslim passing” people (those who are stereotyped to be Muslim due to their skin color or attire) have been targeted on the streets, in their places of work, gas stations, it is virtually everywhere.
Hate crimes against Muslims have increased by 15% as of 2017 according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations. This is the reality for many other Muslims right now, and despite having these “fundamental” rights given to us by a piece of paper, religious freedom doesn’t seem to be reinforced. However, we continue to make strides every day, to ensure that our livelihood is less threatened. Whether it’s through protest or electing Muslims into office, we are creating positive changes that by Allah’s will, will make a significant difference and better the state of the country we call home.
Hafeezat Bishi is a Nigerian-American student living in the Northern U.S. When not speaking (ranting) about social injustice on Twitter, you can catch her reading, journaling, or singing show tunes with her younger siblings. Starting in the Fall of 2018 she will be studying communications in college, actively pursuing a profession in social/political justice, and learning how to communicate to the masses effectively. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @_hafeezat