In less than two weeks after taking his Presidential oath, Donald Trump issued a series of executive orders, memorandums and proclamations that have shaken the United States to its core. As promised on his campaign trail, Trump continues to target the most vulnerable in an effort to return America to a greatness appreciated exclusively by old, white men. Amongst his efforts was his original Executive Order signed on Jan. 27 which targeted immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. In his second Executive Order on March 6, he eliminated Iraq, but left it open to target anyone that they felt may be a threat to security.
This Muslim Ban prompted immediate protests at major airports across the country with the support of lawyers and translators who worked pro bono addressing the immediate needs of detainees. Protestors attained tangible results, including the release of many detained under the order, a seeming reversal for Green Card holders, along with four emergency blocks on Trump’s order issued by four female Federal judges. With both Executive Orders federal judges blocked the ban, most recently Hawaii and Maryland. However, violence against Muslims continues to rage the country following the heightened rate of Islamophobic attacks normalized during the Presidential elections.
To date, no other American head of state has received so much demonstrated objection so early in their administration, and there is evidence that points to a certain permanency to the protest. Amidst the resistance, Muslim Girl turned to millennials who are here either as a result of their parents’ immigration or their own, to reflect on how the Muslim ban impacted them or those around them and how they aim to move forward.
“I am proudly the daughter of immigrants; My Yemeni father and Trinidadian mother met in Brooklyn, New York, where their love blossomed as they pursued the American Dream. Although they worked hard to become U.S. citizens and build a home here, there is a lot of uncertainty regarding how our extended family’s travel is affected now as well as heightened concerns of the increased Islamophobia that my parents face on a regular basis. Despite the odds, we have a great blended support system that is unapologetically Arab, Black, Muslim and Christian. We’re committed to overcoming these obstacles together by knowing our rights, being informed consumers and organizing to ensure everyone is welcome here!”
“The Muslim ban has hurt so many, both directly and indirectly. Personally, it’s caused moments of disheartening self-reflection: Is my family welcome here? Who/what exactly is President Trump trying to “protect?” But luckily my parents have always stressed the fact that first and foremost, I am American, that no matter what anyone says, I deserve to be here just as much as any white man, that “American” is not a race, ethnicity, or religion, and that my existence at this time…is resistance in-and-of itself.
Those truths — and the fact that so many are actively taking a stand against the ban — are a reminder that you simply cannot hide America’s diversity. We are ALL a part of America’s reality, and you cannot just executive-order it away.”
-Balkis Awan is currently a student at Georgetown University Law Center, and she is (unapologetically) of Mexican and Pakistani descent.
“Only weeks after his arrival, the temporary split from his family became an indefinite separation. Now all we can do is pray that this nightmare will soon end and our family can be reunited and safe.”
“I moved to the U.S. when I was six years old. I’ve never considered myself a Muslim. Yet with a single stroke of his expensive pen, an ignorant straight, white male has effectively categorized me as one. So for the first time in my life, I will embrace this label. I don’t eat halal or couldn’t tell you much about the verses in the Qur’an, yet I will stand in solidarity with all of my fellow Iranians, Iraqis, Sudanese, Somalis, Syrians, Yemenis and Libyans to oppose this Muslim ban.”
–Mana Aliabadi is an Iranian-American studying Immigration Management in Barcelona, Spain
“My uncle was one of the last family members to escape from Yemen, one of the last to escape from a war-torn country devastated by corruption and destitution. He escaped, but he was forced to take the risk of leaving his wife, kids and mother (my grandmother) alone in the hopes of legally pursuing residence for them in the United States. Only weeks after his arrival, the temporary split from his family became an indefinite separation. Now all we can do is pray that this nightmare will soon end and our family can be reunited and safe.”
–Afaf Elhady is Yemeni-American, studied Global Studies with an emphasis in the Middle East at the University of Toledo.
“After moving to the United States in 2012, I have not visited Iran since 2013 because of visa restrictions. I received my Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering last September, and had planned on inviting my parents to attend my commencement ceremony in June. Because of the Executive Order, I won’t be able to celebrate this accomplishment with my parents. Still, I’m privileged compared to other friends who are unable to return to their academic pursuits.”
–Sheida Ghapani recently received her PhD from the University of California, Riverside and currently resides in Santa Barbara.
“As an individual that just got her citizenship last year after being undocumented for a little over 10 years, I am both self-aware of my privilege and self-reflect on the fear I shared with others. This ban has provoked anxiety and anger within me.
I take this ban personally because it easily could’ve been my family that is being targeted. Different circumstance is the only difference between me and the individuals who are now frantic about their future. I don’t know how to overcome this other than to fight it. I can’t overcome this alone. I will find my allies. I will stand in solidarity. I will unite with my community. WE will overcome this.”
– Marwa, poetically-yours
“The Muslim ban that President Trump instituted through an Executive Order is a serious affront to the dignity and humanity of Muslims. I know many individuals who are now afraid to travel for no other reason than their religious background as Muslim, even if their country isn’t on the list of those banned from entry. Like other policies implemented under the guise of counter-terrorism, this ban sends the message to society that it is ok to target Muslims.
Thus, on a daily level, I not only worry about my Muslim family and friends at the hand of the state, but also on the level of society. It is very troubling that Muslims are being scapegoated so callously and that the worst may be yet to come.”
–Dr. Maha Hilal is the Executive Director of the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms
“As a first generation, Jewish Iranian-American woman with a Muslim-born mother who also bakes cookies for Santa on Christmas with her Greek Orthodox cousins, this ban affects each part of who I am in one way or another. Even if not directly, it has my friend wondering if her mom will come back home from her visit to Iran; it has my boyfriend wondering if his family will be able to visit from Iran for his brother’s wedding in a few short months; it has my parents putting a pause on their plans to travel back to Iran to visit family after 20 years. I am overcoming this by recognizing that my story is just one of many — and that everyone else’s story is mine, too. Together, our story is strong, our story is loud, and our story has many voices but one message: his voice is not ours, and ours will be heard.”
–Tallia Deljou is an organizational psychologist and co-founder of Mavenly + Co. dedicated to supporting women in pursuing a career with purpose and understanding their value and worth in the workplace.
“For years, I have been trying to visit my father’s home country, Iran, a nation he left prior to the 1979 revolution in order to pursue ‘the American dream.’ He would tell me, ‘It’s not safe…it’s not a good time…we can’t go right now…,’ whenever I asked if we could. Three years ago, for the first time in my life, he said okay. We started the process of obtaining birth certificates, passports and required paperwork as Iranian-Americans and one year ago, I was privileged enough to see the wonder and beauty of that incredible land.
I remember the kindness and hospitality we were shown as visitors, the historical significance of our trip prior to the sanctions being lifted, and the indescribable joy I felt stepping on the land of my ancestors for the first time. I’m one of the lucky ones. Though I hold dual-citizenship with one of the seven targeted nations, I also hold the golden ticket of a U.S. passport and know I am safe to come and go as I please. That privilege has been stripped of our brothers and sisters, our mothers and fathers, our friends, our loved ones, and our allies in this fight for human rights and dignity.
While my extended Persian family has moved to the U.S. and I know they are safe, I know too many others who do not have the same peace of mind. Iranian, Iraqi, Libyan, Somali, Sudanese, Syrian, and Yemeni communities are under attack and there are few in power who are taking steps to support them. These nations have already been struck by warfare, severe oppression, and authoritarian regimes. Now they face a new battle. I don’t have the answers and I don’t know how to best overcome this, but I know finding solidarity in community, donating to or volunteering with organizations fighting for justice, supporting activism and organizing efforts, and keeping accurate information readily available are steps I am taking and I hope our allies are doing the same.”
–Marjan Riazi is a Filipino-Iranian American and an alumna and employee of the University of California, Santa Barbara.
“I am a child of a Muslim refugee, so this ban is extremely personal for me. If this law were in place when my father was forced to flee violence in his homeland, I would never have been born. Trump’s ban shuts the door on people fleeing death and destruction across the Middle East amid the worst refugee crisis since World War II, including millions displaced in countries that the U.S. is currently bombing. The ban is clearly motivated by Islamophobia and bigotry, using the flimsy excuse of ‘national security’ while associating ordinary Muslims around the world with ISIS. In the long run, this ban will only strengthen groups like ISIS by proving to many around the world that American promises of liberty and freedom are pure hypocrisy – which is what they are fast becoming under Trump.”
–Alex Shams is a Ph.D. student of Anthropology at the University of Chicago
“The Muslim Ban that President Trump (still in shock we have to call him that) has left me in shock at what is clearly a violation of the constitution but also a sense of determination to challenge and reverse this injustice. This ban on Muslim travelers affects people from my homeland, Syria, and has left many of my friends and family scrambling to figure out what their legal status is and what would happen were they to leave the country.
But despite the initial shock and the dozens and dozens of stories about travelers being detained, my faith in ordinary american people was restored when tens of thousands of people came out to protest this past weekend in support of Muslim travelers — many of whom were allowed to enter the country after a challenge to Trump’s executive order in federal court. But the challenges remain and the coming days will test our collective mettle and see how far we’re willing to take our fight to restore justice and civility in our country.”
“I dreamt this when I was 11 almost every night for a year. I’d wake up drenched. Night terrors. It was always the same dream: my family and I were criminalized because of our faith, our brownness — marked as a threat to the state, detained, disappeared. Coming into political consciousness as a Muslim-American post-9/11 meant that the rhetoric around national security forced you to imagine your own body as an object of scrutiny, suspicion, and state terror. This executive order is not an isolated incident or even a recent development, but rather the logical conclusion of a settler state built on stolen indigenous lands with stolen African labor to legitimize and consolidate its global powers and sense of exceptionalism. #nobanonstolenland”
–Athia is an activist, writer, Ph.D. student.
“I literally wouldn’t exist if my father wasn’t able to immigrate here from Iran as a college student, study engineering, start his own small business, and meet my mom. My dad passed away two years ago so I will never know how this would have affected him, but I’m profoundly sad enough for both of us. I’m worried about when I’ll see my family from Iran next and, with hate crimes rising under Trump, I worry what this means more broadly for Muslims and really all people of color in our country.
This ban is simply un-American so I’ve been taking to the streets to protest. I was at my local airport this weekend and I’m calling my representatives to do everything they can to reverse it. I’m also fortunate enough to work for a political organization so I’m working on reversing the ban as part of my job as well.”
–Emma is an Iranian-American living in Philadelphia. She works for a women’s advocacy organization.
“I was born and raised in the U.S., since my father is Iranian I have dual nationality and I travel to Iran every year to see family. I am often interrogated at secondary screening and have my belongings searched when I re-enter the country, even as a U.S. citizen! I am afraid of this treatment worsening when I return to the U.S.”
–Nima is an Iranian-American graduate student at the University of Oxford
“The ban is a harsh reminder that the Muslim community is still viewed as an enemy and that we are all grouped under a negative, homogenous narrative. As an Indonesian American Muslim, this ban also emphasizes that I must join with my Muslim communities regardless of whether or not my country is a part of the ban list. Now is the time for all of us as a community, regardless of nationality, sect, gender identity, sexuality, socio-economic status to protect the members of the Muslim community who are affected as well as fight against the rampant Islamophobia that is present.”
“My father is the American Dream. Had my parents not immigrated in their teens, I would not be here nor have the opportunities I have had. But with their immigration, I had an adolescence filled with racism and institutional isolation – even while growing up in Southern California. The ban itself further radicalizes the alt rights agenda of ethnic cleansing. The fascist nature of discourse that goes along with it scares me. The lack of compassion partnered with an uncanny sense of detachment is belligerent and dangerous. Land of the free, home of the unwanted.”
–Farshad Mohammad is an Iranian-American studying architecture and community design at the University of San Francisco.
“Imagine being forced back into a war zone, a place you left to escape political repression. My parents were refugees moving from country-to-country before they could seek citizenship in the U.S. They pay taxes, volunteer, and actively engage with the community — they belong here. Going to Iran is out of question so they phone my grandmother every day, and every summer she manages a visit. None of us will see her anymore and this #MuslimBan has further torn apart our already broken up family of refugees.”
-Zeina Saidzadeh is an Iranian-American Muslim studying Environmental Science at UCSB
“While I don’t have any immediate family members impacted by the ban I have heard the uncertainty and fear of a few extended relatives. Many of the people with whom I’ve spoken to were in the process of applying for a visa so they could come to America to seek medical treatment for things like vision impairment and recurrent cardiac issues. My family and I have taken to providing comfort in the form of words as well as resources and materials that could educate and advise these individuals on what their next move should be. We have always lived by the adage ‘knowledge is power’ but alongside educating those around us we must continue to resist FOR them.”
“I came to the U.S. in 2008, and am thankful to be in this country. I have been directly hit by the ban because I work as an interpreter at a refugee resettlement agency in Maine. Here, my Iraqi community is afraid and frustrated. I am overcoming this madness through peaceful protest and making others aware of the lasting impact the ban will have. We are not alone. We will work and fight together.”
“While my family isn’t directly affected by the ban because most of my family abroad is in the U.K. and India, it is creating a lot of fear and restlessness when it comes to international travel. I am worried about what the future holds for us. The way I am overcoming it is fighting back, protesting at the airport, helping my coworkers who are doing legal advocacy, and organizing the community locally. The way I see it is that while I am not Irani, Somali, Syrian, etc. those families being separated and seeking refuge are no different than my own, so I feel a sense of urgency to fight for them as if they were my own family.”
-Mohsin Mirza is the son of Muslim Indian immigrants currently working on Voting Rights at Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus
“Since the president signed the EO, some immigrants, especially Muslims in my community, are confused and seeking answers on what is going to happened to them here or what will happen to their families who are American citizens but are traveling outside the country. I spoke to someone whose older sister and their elderly mother are in Kenya for a visit, they are both American citizens. He called me at midnight looking for answers. He wanted to go and bring them back the next day. My conversation with most community members who called me for guidance, after I have directed them to pro-bono legal lawyers always end up with, “Let’s keep praying and wait to see what happens in the next few days.”
-Pious Ali, (city councilor Portland Maine) from Ghana is the first African born immigrant and First Muslim to be elected into any Publicly elected office in Maine.
“My parents immigrated to the U.S. from Yemen in the 1970s to start a family and ensure their children a better life than the one they left behind. They genuinely believed in America’s promise to immigrants and believed that they and others like them were now permanently part of the American fabric. Their belief in America and their current hurt and disappointment is what makes Trump’s Muslim ban so painful. My mom is in the process of applying for a visa for her 80-year-old mother, and my brother’s wife and two-year-old son have already been waiting for over a year to be reunited with him. There is still a lot of confusion and frustration in the Yemeni-American community, but the outpour of support and the thousands marching in protest of the ban has given us hope that the American people haven’t forgotten our promise to immigrants, even if Trump has.”
-Jayla Amin is a graduate student in California where she studies women’s empowerment in Yemen.
Note about the author: Sepideah Mohsenian-Rahman is an Iranian-American activist and writer. She received an M.S.W. in International Social Welfare and Services to Immigrants and Refugees from Columbia University. She currently works at the MultiCultural Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and is a regular contributor to MuslimGirl. While she is personally safe from the Executive Order (for now), she is informed by the immigrant experience and trauma of those around her – including her four and fourteen year old cousins currently indefinitely estranged from their mother as a result of the Muslim Ban, and the stolen opportunity of academic exchange from her uncle, a theologian and professor based in Tehran who was due to teach at a U.S. university in the Fall.