My personal thoughts on Donald Trump’s controversial Muslim travel ban have been diluted as I have been force-fed headlines and opinions announced across media outlets. I still hadn’t come to terms with the fact that the ban had come into fruition, let alone formed any personal judgement on it.
I felt a whirlwind of emotions. Anger, confusion, and lastly fear. Fear, not because I was an American who was under the reign of Donald Trump; fear because I identify myself as a British Muslim female. Fear because although the ban was taking place across the pond the backlash of it would reach my doorstep, as it had before. As much as I’d like to admit I am welcome in my home city of London there are always repercussions to a global event that instigates change with the intention to divide.
The tension rises during journeys when I board with my head scarf on days following any major event involving individuals who claim to be acting in the name of Islam.
The silence screams louder when the daily commute to university becomes unbearably longer because the floor of the train is littered with newspapers with headlines I am too ashamed to look at.
Although I am disgusted at the actions of those who harm or promote violence, disgusted that lives of innocent people are taken for a religion that forbids violence, I am left feeling held accountable for the actions of others. I lower my head for a few days, avoid eye contact and mourn quietly for those who have lost their lives.
Although I am a British Muslim girl, I also am a creative writing student, who eats way too much chocolate and loves tea. The religion I follow does not promote hatred, violence, or the killing of innocent people. It teaches me how to be respectful, patient, and loving. So why am I made to feel like an outsider in my own city sometimes?
When the aftermath of a major incident subsides I am left to feel welcome in my city again. However, the ban brought back the fear, this time on a much larger scale. The concept of the ban was always a frightening thought, however, the implementation of it highlighted the reality that Muslims were simply not welcome. Although not so bluntly put, we were being restricted. Rights that I thought impossible to remove were being removed. A right to travel based on your nationality. America, a Western civilisation priding itself as the “Land of the free and home of the brave” had implemented a ban that went against everything that means. It went against the fabric of freedom itself.
A born cynic, I thought it could only get worse from here on, however, my faith in humanity was restored — as cliché as it sounds. The next morning, I logged into social media to bury my head in the sand, however, I was surprised to see how the world responded. Marches erupted, #Nomuslimban was scribbled on placards everywhere from NY to London. All genders, nationalities, and ages gathered in wintery conditions to storm through the streets of their city to notify Donald Trump that there were individuals who decided they would not be silenced. I could feel safe within my own skin; there were people who would not be brainwashed or led by this man.
People had friends, families, and neighbours who were Muslims and who were loved and welcome. Some people did not know any Muslims yet stood against what Donald Trump stands for. I felt ashamed to have felt like an outsider when all along I had just been too close-minded to realise there is more than to us than media headlines; there is more to us than a ban, and there is more to us than division.
We are connected through our love of art, culture, entertainment, and food. We are connected through love, respect, and mutual understanding; a language of acceptance that surpasses much more than a ban that is being implemented
So, although the ban has left many in agony and left Americans fearful as to what will come, knowing the world is watching has strengthened my faith in the power of those who believe in what is right. It has proved that although something like the ban can shake the world it can also unite those who are against division. Those who are against discrimination of any sort and those who believe in respecting the rights of others.
I would be naïve to think that this is the final hurdle that the world has yet to throw at us but I am now a little less worried about how we will react. I am determined to stand up for what is right, whether that is regarding someone’s gender, religion, or nationality, I refuse to let those down who marched for me when I felt unwelcome.
I would like to be among those who speak for those who are voiceless. I would like to thank those who marched, protested, and stood up against the ban. You have instilled in me a fire I refuse to let out. I am a British Muslim female who loves her city and who is here to stay. So, watch out for me on your journey home and I might just make eye contact and remind you. I am much more than words on a newspaper headline.