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The targets on our backs

02 Feb 2017

Catching up on the news this weekend has been a laborious, saddening and frightening task. Whilst I was away seeing friends abroad, President Trump executed his promised “Muslim ban”, forbidding those from majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States. Countries such as Iraq, Iran, Libya and Yemen have been affected. Not only this, the ill thought-out Executive Order has meant that green card holders, who are technically residents of the US, but with a Yemeni, Iraqi etc. background have been reported to have been denied entry to a place they call home.

Trump’s presidency is one that shocked the world as it signalled the legitimacy of the “alt-right”, as well as feeding into the anti-Muslim rhetoric that has existed since 9/11. For nearly 16 years Muslims around the world have had to contend with the long-term consequences of that fateful day, with its repercussions being felt all the more in the last year. Executive orders such as the ban on Muslims only further reinforce the divide between Muslims and the rest of the world. The sense of “otherness” is as profoundly deep as it has ever been. However, in spite of this, there has been a huge outpouring of support from the international community, as seen on 30 January, where marches took place up and down the country, standing in solidarity with Muslims, the scapegoats of Trumps’ policies.

As a British Muslim, whose parents hail from Pakistan, I am all too aware of the threat that people like me face. There is a target on our back, shot at whenever a tragic event occurs, just so the blame can be placed somewhere before the grief can begin. My family’s car back window being smashed just after the 7/7 attacks, and the glares my mother has received on account of her wearing a headscarf are just two, of very many, examples of this.

Thus, I stand in solidarity with those who are unable to travel home or to the Land of the Free, all because of their nationality and their religion. I stand with those who will be attacked for their religion, and those whose lives will change as a result of the new President. What is desperately needed during times of crises is a sense of togetherness, an unwavering, unrelenting collective of Muslims, putting sectarian beliefs asides and coming together to support one another through such trying times, as Trump is just but one part of the problem. The rise in hate-crime, the legitimisation of the alt-right and Theresa May’s apparent refusal to confront Trump’s policies has meant that already-marginalised groups are now, perhaps more so than ever, pushed to the outskirts of society, the target on our backs more used and abused as each day passes.

However, I would be lying if I said that I was not still in a state of shock over the ban. I know that it was something that was coming, we were even informed about it in the last year, as it was an integral part of Trump’s campaign, but to have genuinely signed and swiftly executed such an Order without any apparent pre-planning and a deep level of thought is just terrifying. The people of the United States successfully voted in a man whose whole campaign was based around  fear-mongering, something that will no doubt be a keystone of his presidency over the next three years.

Through my shock and sadness, one of the many questions I have running through my mind is: “what happens next?” There have already been rumours circulating of expanding the list of countries banned from the United States, with Pakistan being at the forefront. Will we get to a point where all Muslim-majority countries and its citizens will be barred from entering the United States? Will there be clarity regarding those with dual-nationality, or those working in the States, but originally from Muslim-majority countries? The fact that there are so many questions to be asked regarding the Executive Order is a sad sign of its ill thought-out nature, which will come and continue to come at the expense of Muslims, both in the United States and around the world.