By David Marino –
Muslims across Arizona blasted President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration, saying that it discriminates against Muslims and does not address security concerns in a valid manner.
The Arizona chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-AZ), a civil rights and advocacy group for American Muslims, responded by releasing a statement on its Facebook page condemning the order banning travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries, as well as offering legal advice and potential assistance to those affected.
The immigration ban Trump signed is on hold after court rulings. Officials in his administration have indicated that he may issue a revised ban.
Imraan Siddiqi, executive director of CAIR-AZ, is one of several plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the original ban. Siddiqi says he was outraged by the order, but not surprised.
“It wasn’t unexpected because throughout his campaign, this is exactly what [Trump] promised,” Siddiqi said. “He used divisive rhetoric and targeting of Muslims in collective blame and also fear-mongering against refugees.”
Siddiqi has also taken to speaking directly to his more than 25,000 followers on Twitter about the issue. Most notably, he and Zaki Barzinji, a former community liaison to Muslim Americans in the Obama administration, are credited with starting the hashtag #NoBanNoWall, which received national coverage after widespread use.
The hashtag, which was meant to show solidarity between Muslim American and Latino communities, refers to the executive order on immigration, often called a “Muslim ban” by detractors, and Trump’s plan to build a wall along the Mexican-American border.
“Having social media as this force that connects us and that can educate people, I think has been really good. It lessens the distance between ourselves, as citizens, and the media and our elected officials,” Siddiqi said. “You can be united under the banner of hashtags.”
Although he condemned what he saw as anti-Muslim bigotry by the Trump administration, Siddiqi said the amount of activism, as well as legal action, in response to the order made him optimistic
“Thankfully the court system is showing that there are a system of checks and balances here in the U.S.,” Siddiqi said. “So my hope is that, even though the administration clearly has an agenda of targeting Muslim Americans with unjust policies, I think that the system here is definitely going to uphold those rights.”
Johnny Martin, a senior at Arizona State University, points out that the order goes directly against the American value of freedom of religion. Martin, who is studying religion, public life and conflict, converted to Islam more than two years ago. He has long been active in the Phoenix metro area’s interfaith community, which attempts to build connections and dialogue between those of different faiths.
“It’s really something that ought to be a rallying point for folks in the interfaith movement,” Martin said. “Solidarity means more to the Muslim community now than ever.”
Martin said that while he understands the fear felt by many in Trump’s base of support regarding Muslims traveling or seeking refuge in the United States, their view of Islam is incorrect and based on the acts of Islamic extremists.
“There’s a lot of people in America who have never met a Muslim, have never read from the Qur’an, have never been to a mosque, and never had the opportunity to understand that set of beliefs,” Martin said.
Junaid Quresh, chairman of the board of the West Valley Islamic Center, condemned the order, saying that it would cause great inconvenience to many, especially those who have family members living abroad.
Qureshi also said that the order did not make sense for security reasons, given the intense amount of vetting that goes along with coming to the United States, which he knows first-hand from arriving to the United States from Pakistan more than 10 years ago.
“It’s not an easy process to go through, even for someone who was not coming as a refugee,” Qureshi said. “Putting in more barriers is going to ultimately not help those who are really in need of refuge in this world.”
Qureshi also emphasized that Islam is not akin to its extremists, and that Muslims are not the enemy in the United States.
“The Muslims of this country are very patriotic, and they love this country. They like it to be secure, and free from people who want to create mischief and do harm,” Qureshi said. “So I think we are partners in this.”
The executive order, signed by the president on January 27, indefinitely bars Syrian refugees from entering the United States, suspends admission of all refugees for 120 days, and blocks citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations from entering for 90 days, as part of what Trump calls an intense vetting plan to keep out “radical Islamic terrorists.”
It also contains provisions that would prioritize admittance of religious minorities as refugees, which many accuse of being a “religious test” for entering the United States.
Opponents of the travel ban had a major victory on February 9, when the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to continue blocking enforcement of Trump’s travel ban.
After the ruling, the president tweeted “See you in court,” indicating that he will continue to pursue a travel ban.