This essay was originally a Facebook post I made after the Executive Order banning travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Some of you have asked me if I’ve been impacted by the recent “Muslim ban” executive order, which bans nationals from Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, and Libya from entering the US – even legal immigrants who have obtained green cards or visas, even those who contribute every day to Americans’ safety, happiness, education, health, and hope. My answer is probably a lot like yours, people who live in small- to middling-size town America: no, it doesn’t impact me. But here’s who it does impact.
It impacts many of my students, who can no longer visit the main campus, where they participate in cross-cultural Study Abroad, enriching both their own perspectives and the perspectives of the students in College Station. It impacts many who can no longer dream of going to the US and working for technology companies who are innovating in the field of engineering. It impacts many who believed in the myth that America is post-racial and a land of opportunity for all.
It impacts many of my colleagues, one of whom cannot visit her children and grandchildren in the US – and they can’t come visit her here in Doha because they won’t be allowed back home. Another can’t carry out his research that contributes to the efficiency of oil rigs, because the companies he works with in the US can’t fly him in to take advantage of his years of expertise.
It impacts many of my American friends, who are now concerned that this is only the first step. I was once questioned in a Tel Aviv airport for my associations with Muslims, and it wasn’t a fun experience. (Word to the wise: I gave their security people a bunch of “alternative facts” about my life. If I’m in a database somewhere, my dataset is contributing a lot of baloney to their profiles of terrorists.) Many of my friends now wonder, “Are they coming for me next? Will I endure extra screening? Will I be allowed into my own country? Just how far will this go?”
It impacts everyone I know in Qatar, because it feeds a culture of fear. And in that way, the “Muslim ban” has probably impacted you and me. The white nationalists who surround our National Dictator fear Muslims because they “aren’t like us,” a fear which is apparently justification enough to terrorize a group of people. If you’re not part of that group, then you’re in fear of what this country has become when its racism is worn on its sleeve, or maybe you’re afraid for the future, the world that your children will inherit. Me, I don’t get off on fear, but maybe that’s just my white female overpaid expat privilege talking.
So if you support the “Muslim ban,” you’re impacting all these people – pretty much everyone I know. Maybe you don’t have a single Muslim in your town, but I’ve got close to two million of them. They matter to me, so if I matter to you, you’ll think twice, three times, four times – as many as it takes – about your support for such an ethnocentric policy. If I don’t matter to you, well that’s too bad. I’m a pretty amazing person, and so are my Yemeni, Syrian, Iraqi, Iranian, Somalian, Sudanese, and Libyan friends, acquaintances, and fellow human beings.