The Muslim Ban Impacts Entry into the U.S. and Travel Out, if you are a Muslim American Like Me
By Dr. Maha Hilal, Michael Ratner Middle East fellow, the Institute for Policy Studies, Guest Writer for AIUSA
The Muslim ban is another reminder of how far the U.S. government will go to criminalize and demonize Muslim communities. We should rightly focus on those most impacted — individuals residing in the six countries who will now, because of the Supreme Court, face serious barriers to getting visas to enter the country. But as a U.S. citizen of Egyptian descent, I want to tell you about how it has affected not just Muslim non-citizens, but Muslim citizens as well — many of whom like me, have been reminded of our second class citizenship as a result of the ban.
Two weeks ago, I had decided to travel to Palestine on an interfaith delegation. I knew this would come with risks as Arabs and Muslims, regardless of their citizenship are considered suspect by the state of Israel. But, I operated with the assumption that everything would be ok and that even if I was denied entry and was deported from Israel, I would have no issues returning home — home being the United States.
Minutes before sending over my passport information to the trip coordinator, I heard about the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold, in part, the ban. I immediately became nervous about the thought of traveling — it was after all one thing to travel to a country that I was not a citizen of and be denied entry, but its another to think that or fear that your own country would prevent your re-entry.
My fears were exponentially magnified when I thought about what my work involves and that is, direct challenges to the government in the context of the War on Terror. In other words, in case my identity as an Egyptian Arab and Muslim woman was not cause for concern, perhaps my work history would be. The Muslim ban has not only restricted travel into the United States of Muslims, but has also caused reasonable fear and anxiety regarding travel out by Muslims who are U.S. citizens — American Muslims like me.
I know if I was a White American or someone who didn’t otherwise fit the description of what being Muslim “looks like,” or if I was just a “good” daughter of immigrant parents and stopped challenging state violence perpetrated by the United States, that perhaps the Muslim Ban wouldn’t be an issue at all. But it is not my identity or work that needs to change, it’s US government policy targeting Muslims that does.
Many have challenged the unofficial name of this policy as the Muslim Ban. But I wonder if anyone who isn’t Muslim wondered whether or not they wouldn’t be let into the United States despite holding U.S. citizenship, because of their religion. I wonder if any Americans who aren’t Muslim looked at their passports and wondered what it really meant to have a document that would grant them entry into other countries, but might not grant them entry back into their own.
As a researcher, advocate, and activist who has worked on challenging War on Terror policies for the last 10 years, I have been overwhelmed by the incredible support and mobilization towards dismantling the ban. But I know worse may be yet to come — and I hope that after 16 years of the War on Terror, those of us who care about human rights will stand up for Muslims — whether they are denied entry into the United States, victimized by the police, are imprisoned in Guantanamo, or are a survivor of an unlawful drone strike. So let’s collectively rally, protest, and chant, “When Muslim rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up fight back!”