Essay By Ariel Hall for Americans United 2018 Student Essay Contest
My finger carefully held the remote's channel button, and my nonchalant eyes watched as each channel flitted from one to the next. For a Friday night, there seemed to be a lack of entertaining programming on. I settled on the NBC Nightly News program. I haphazardly watched as the reporter announced tragedy after tragedy, without a hopeful outlook to the future or a call to our nation's citizens to unite against wrong. However, minutes later a key phrase caught my attention, and an electric pulse coursed through my heart as I listened. Muslim Ban. Two words. Three syllables. Soft on the tongue like my grandmother’s pound cake. Executive Order 13769 was created to protect the United States from foreign terrorists. But in reality it banned citizens from seven countries with majority Muslim populations from entering the U.S. It also prohibited Syrians from seeking refuge from the abhorrent conditions caused by the civil war in their country.
The Muslim Ban became personal when I reflected on my grandfather’s Hajj (the Islamic holy pilgrimage required of Muslims), which he took when I was being born. His travels took him to countries where Islam is revered. He shared many powerful stories about worshiping in unity with kind, loving Muslims from all over the world whom he considered spiritual brothers and sisters. My grandfather journeyed to the region of the world where these countries are being demonized.
Innocent people being barred from our country because of their religion is not only unconstitutional, but immoral. It gives haunting voice to the Holocaust, and I would have hoped we had surpassed such barbaric measures. Jewish citizens of Germany fled Hitler’s regime that created the Nuremberg laws giving the German government authority to exterminate them. But, as rumors of Hitler’s violence reached the west and hundreds of thousands of Jews sought refuge, nations such as the United States tightened its limits on immigration for national security concerns.
As an African-American and Muslim girl in America, racism causes me to feel as though my life is less valuable than the lives of white citizens around me. The Muslim Ban intensifies this experience by lending government-sanctioned anti-Islamic ideology to a nation already struggling to embrace differences. This ban threatens to penetrate the heart of America and create an electric pulse of hatred that courses through its veins.
Dr. Martin Luther King once wisely stated, “Silence is betrayal.” To combat the threat of Islamophobic legislation, one must stand up physically, emotionally, and mentally against the divisive silence that hatred deputizes in our communities. From the moment my ears heard the two words “Muslim Ban,” I realized it was no longer an option to remain silent. So, I began to write. Furiously, my fingers tapped the little white keys on my computer in order to oppose hatred, knowing the pen is far mightier than the sword. My writing morphed into opinion articles for my AP Language class where my mind outpoured my confusion, anger, and a cry to help break the cycle of Islamophobia.
In my city of Cleveland, citizens in our local government have taken a stand to oppose Trump's Muslim Ban. In a council meeting on January 31st, one by one, each council member stood proudly in front of the crowd, unafraid to shatter the glass ceiling created by hatred and indifference. Some members spoke of how this ban is a direct violation of the Constitution, while Councilwoman Kerry McCormack conveyed a truth that not many local citizens considered, “This is a direct attack against the city of Cleveland and its ability to welcome people of all backgrounds.” Not only is this piece of legislation “a direct hit on Cleveland,” but to the nation as a whole. In addition to the council members voicing their dissent against the Muslim Ban, residents of Cleveland have been actively protesting. This includes a 2500 member protest on Market Square in February of last year, and at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport where many Muslims were being detained and forced to board planes back to their countries.
Lack of knowledge and fear are the two barriers I see impeding the progress of eliminating Islamophobia. It is easy to set a bone once it is broken to heal the physical damage, but the real question is how do you repair a broken ideology? Fear of differences causes individuals to become isolated in their own identities, and allows them to view anyone outside of their identity as a threat. With the continuous flood of Islamophobic rhetoric from politicians since 9/11, this fear has been fueled, and has exploded into a gasoline fire with Trump's Muslim Ban. This fire that will continue to burn and destroy if the study of rhetoric and the beautiful religion of Islam is not taught.
It is easy to fall victim to the messages of political advertisements and politicians shown on the television and social media applications. Students should be taught how to analyze political messages including speeches, advertisements, and social media posts. Students can then share this information with their families and other community members. One person at a time will gain keen insights into decoding Islamophobic rhetoric. By being informed and armed with factual information, our nation's people would not be so susceptible to believing the hatred of Islamophobia.
Education about the religion will also assist in eradicating the fear of Islam. The direct translation of Islam, is "surrender", specifically to the will of Allah or God. True Muslims submit to the will of Allah completely and follow his guidance towards the path to paradise. Radicalized groups such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda do not represent Allah and Islam in its truest form. To be a Muslim is to love your neighbor as you love yourself, not to promote senseless violence for the purpose of sacrifice. If others understood the truth of Islam, the fear some Americans harbor against Islam would be abated.
To continue this work, we Muslims need to voice our opinions over the subject of the proposed Muslim Ban and Islamophobia. This important work can be carried out by creating and attending specific forums and events, and speaking on Islamophobia and xenophobia in the United States. If more Muslims publicly spoke on this issue, it would assist in dispelling the fear of our religion, and ultimately of us. America would be able to see that we are everyday citizens with families and friends. We are mothers, daughters, sisters, father, brothers, sons, cousins, aunts and uncles. We are citizens of the world.
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Hundreds Protest and March Against President’s Muslim Travel Ban in Cleveland. Foundation, 3 Feb. 2017, www.clevescene.com/scene-and-heard/archives/2017/02/03/hundreds-protest-and-march-against-presidents-muslim-travel-ban-in-cleveland. Accessed 31 Mar. 2018.
Morice, Jane. “Hundreds protest Trump’s travel ban at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.” Cleveland.com, Advance Ohio, 30 Jan. 2017, www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2017/01/hundreds_protest_trumps_travel.html. Accessed 24 Mar. 2018.
Niedermier, Kevin. “Cleveland Congresswoman Says American Muslims Need to be More Vocal in Opposing Trump’s Travel Ban.” Wksu.org, WKSU, 22 Feb. 2017, wksu.org/post/cleveland-congresswoman-says-american-muslims-need-be-more-vocal-opposing-trumps-travel-ban#stream/0. Accessed 31 Mar. 2018.
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Ushmm.org. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005139. Accessed 25 Mar. 2018.