S. E. Williams
Local Muslim Leaders Respond with Grace to America’s Immigration Ban
Was it Americans’ fear of terrorism or something more sinister that drove President Donald J. Trump to execute an order that temporarily halted all immigration from seven Muslim nations and stopped the influx of Syrian refugees? Only time will tell.
Supporters cheered the president for so quickly delivering on a controversial campaign promise–to stop immigration from Muslim nations. With as many as 52 percent of Americans believing Syrian refugees will make the country less safe—President Trump apparently viewed his action as a political safe bet. However, if the past is truly prologue, then America—a nation of immigrants and refugees—has a spotty history on how welcoming it is; and could fill a textbook with chapters of recorded stories that detail its nativist drama and discrimination—a history that many consider shameful.
“The Holy Koran says you respect those in authority… So, we are not going to defy authority; but, if we feel our ability to practice our religion freely is compromised, we won’t just sit there.”
– Dr. Ahsan Khan
History buffs may well recall America’s resentment toward Irish immigrants in the mid-1800s who merely sought freedom from starvation, relief from the famine in their own country. Others will be reminded of America’s opposition to accepting Jewish children as refugees during the years the Nazis wielded power in Germany; and still others will recall the resentment expressed by many Americans in 2014 toward refugee children from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
In November, 2015, former President Barack Obama spoke on the issue of refugees at a press conference during the G20 Summit. He called on the world to, “remember that many of these [Syrian] refugees are the victims of terrorism themselves. That’s what they’re fleeing.” He continued, “Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values. Our nations can welcome refugees who are desperately seeking safety and ensure our own security.” The former president stressed that, “We can and must do both.”
It is clear President Trump sees the world through a different prism and based on a recent interview with Fox News, it appeared the president was also driven by a different motive. Although most Trump surrogates use talking points that frame the issue in the context of the nation’s “fear of terrorism and a desire to keep America safe” as the primary motive for the ban, former Trump campaign advisor and spokesperson, Rudy Giuliani, told Judge Janine Pirro of Fox News a different story during an interview on her show Saturday night.
As expected, Giuliani defended the ban and claimed it was perfectly legal. However, he then went on to share how the president had asked him and others to “figure out how to do a Muslim ban legally.” He went on to explain how Trump asked him to, "’put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally.’"
Giuliani expounded, “I put a commission together with Judge Mukasey, with Congressman McCaul, Pete King, a whole group of other very expert lawyers on this. And what we did was we focused on, instead of religion, danger. The areas of the world that create danger for us. Which is a factual basis. Not a religious basis.” View the interview online at thehill.com/homenews/ administration/316726-giuliani-trump-asked-me-how-to-do-a-muslim-ban-legally.
A Trump administration official also weighed in and delivered what some perceived as another attempt to obfuscate the real reason the ban was implemented. On Saturday, the official allegedly told CNN on background that, “There's a very strong nexus between our immigration and visa programs and terrorist plots and extremist networks inside the United States." And, continued, "Look at the recent, high-profile attacks that have occurred inside the country— an immigration nexus is not at all uncommon. I won't go through the list of them all now. One obvious example would be Tashfeen Malik and the San Bernardino incident with the K1 visa.
The San Bernardino terrorist attack left 14 people dead and dozens injured. Most people are aware that neither of the San Bernardino attackers would have been impacted by Trump’s ban—Malik was an American citizen and even though his wife, Tashfeen Malik had a K-1 Visa, she was from a wealthy land-owning family that originated in Pakistan and later moved to Saudi Arabia. It is important to note that neither Pakistan nor Saudi Arabia are included in the list of countries banned by the order. A K1 visa is a non-immigrant visa issued to the foreign-citizen fiancé of a US citizen.
Nowhere in the nation are the wounds of the San Bernardino terrorist attack more real than among the survivors and citizens of the inland region. Its weight also rests particularly heavy in the hearts of the communities’ Muslim neighbors.
This week, in an exclusive interview with The Voice/ Black Voice News, Imam Mohammed Zafarullah of the Baitul Hameed Mosque in Chino and Dr. Ahsan Khan, President of the Baitul Hameed Mosque’s Los Angeles East Chapter, spoke openly regarding the ban and its impact on their community. Dr. Khan is a board-certified ophthalmologist with Kaiser Permanente in Orange County and also serves as director of the Gift of Sight program with Humanity First, an international humanitarian organization. In this capacity, Kahn runs free surgical eye camps for under-served populations in Guatemala every year. “We have to wait and see the ramifications of this action,” the Imam said. “Whenever there is uncertainty—we pray.” He continued, “In times like this, leadership matters.”
“We have to wait and see the ramifications of this action…Whenever there is uncertainty—we pray.”
– Iman Mohammed Zafarullah
According to both Zafarullah and Khan, though other Muslim sects may join protests, their community, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community under the guidance and leadership of their Khalifa (Caliph) Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, will not. Both Zarafullah and Kahn stressed, “He has a beautiful message of peace and we follow his lead in times of uncertainty.”
“The Holy Koran says you respect those in authority,” Kahn said. “So, we are not going to defy authority; but, if we feel our ability to practice our religion freely is compromised, we won’t just sit there. What we have told our community members is ‘we have a proper channel [in this country] to lodge complaints.’ We are going to go through the proper channels and if we believe there is bigotry of any form—we will make our voices heard.”
Kahn told this reporter that because there was discussion about a possible immigration ban during the campaign, he was not surprised when the announcement came last Friday; however, he had expected the ban would be the result of a deliberative effort in Congress— he did not foresee an Executive Order. Kahn further explained that as he examined the details of the order, “I couldn’t say whether it was a Muslim ban or not; so, I will not say anything positive or negative.”
Kahn did, however, offer his thoughts regarding the order’s impact on refugees. “It is the duty of our nation and other nations like ours [who are] blessed with these comforts; it is our duty as decent human beings, to welcome them if they are suffering and want asylum. We should show decency.” Kahn also noted how it is our duty as a country not to allow extremists with malintent, regardless of their religion, to enter [the country] in the guise of refugees; however, he also stressed that, “We can’t paint with a broad brush and deny people of Muslim countries—that would be discrimination.”
“Our goal is not to condemn the president,” Kahn said. Currently, “The facts don’t play out as a wide-spread Muslim ban.”
In conclusion, both Zafarullah and Khan expressed their belief that this is not only the right time, it is also the most essential time to really educate the American public about Islam. “Until we do that, there will continue to be misunderstandings.” Kahn then encouraged, “Accept our invitation to come and learn more.”
The Baitul Hameed Mosque in Chino under the stewardship of its Imam, Mohammed Zafarullah, has played a pivotal role in bringing people together and fostering a sense of coalescence within the inland region. In the wake of the terror attack in December 2015, it held a prayer vigil; organized a blood drive; honored the victims; and emphasized the Islamic teachings of the sanctity of life. Prayers and sermons at the Baitul Hameed Mosque in Chino are always open to the public.
Kahn encouraged readers to learn more about Islam and the eleven common misunderstandings about the religion by visiting www.trueislam.com. It is a campaign designed to facilitate understanding by replacing the eleven-common misunderstanding about Islam with eleven truths about the faith.
In the meantime, as members of the Muslim community and other Americans continue to build bridges of understanding—whatever its intent, news of the President’s Executive Order barring immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim countries (Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia) from entering the United States has reverberated internationally.
Spontaneous protests rose-up at airports and on street corners all over America and the world and lawsuits have been filed by several groups. The American Civil Liberties Union won a quick victory over the weekend. The victory allowed those with visas being held in airport detention around the nation to and enter the country; however, many without such documents are still detained.
A Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released Tuesday showed the country evenly split on the issue—one in two Americans backed the ban’ Only 31 percent said the ban made them feel more safe; 26 percent said it made them feel less safe; and 33 percent said it was not going to make a difference.
Since Friday, the California legislature passed a resolution that condemned President Trump's refugee ban while at the federal level, Republicans in both the House and Senate blocked attempts by Democrats to overturn it.