by Sneha Naren
Video by Sneha Naren and Hamoun Dowlatshah
I remember when I first read about Trump’s travel ban. I immediately wrote it off as yet another empty promise in politics. After all, a plan to restrict the entrance of thousands of citizens based on their nationalities alone seems like a preposterous idea.
As the months progressed, more and more news about the advancements of the travel ban surfaced. While the Trump administration claimed that the ban was created to protect the United States’ national security, the facts proved otherwise. Between the years of 1975 and 2015, there have been no terrorist attacks in the United States organized by those from any of the six banned countries; thus, the government has no real justification to implement such a policy. I saw its failures at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals as an imminent end to an idea that was doomed from the start. There was no way a judge could ever allow such a ban to be legislated in the U.S. Not only was it unconstitutional, but it was simply immoral. The fact that these six “blacklisted” countries – Syria, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Iran and Sudan – are all predominantly Muslim, is no coincidence. With Islamophobia acting as the frontrunner of Trump’s campaign, it is unknown to me how anyone could view such a ban as anything other than a religious attack.
Recently, Trump’s ban was pushed into effect. At a hearing with the Supreme Court, partial implementation of the ban was ordered. The Trump administration was given permission to issue a 90-day ban on the six countries listed above, given that they comply with certain clauses issued by the court itself. Before I could even process the news, I received an alert from my phone. It was an email from UCSD, aiming to relieve the tension which the ban would have raised among those affected.
The email stated that students of UCSD from the six countries would not be affected by the ban due to their affiliation with the institution. The email references the bona fide relationship clause of the ban, in which it is said that those who prove credible relationship to a person or entity in the U.S. will be allowed into the country. While the clause’s intention was to narrow the implementation of the ban, it failed to take away the destructive sentiments that the ban leaves on those around the world. A ban of this magnitude permits racism. It allows people to believe that we can label an entire country as violent and dangerous. Moreover, the impacts of the policy extend further from just the six banned countries. The ban feeds into the false stereotypes that have been placed onto so many Muslim majority countries; thus altering the very complexities that makes our world so unique to begin with. Middle Eastern and Muslim individuals around the world are now pigeonholed into the same category, forced to face undeserving and demeaning prejudices about their culture, their race and their identity.
Furthermore, it is important to remember that those affected by this ban aren’t as distant as the media makes them seem. Though we like to focus on the mysterious and minute cases, the truth is that its effects are right on our doorstep. It’s your friend sitting next to you in class, who has to show proof that they attend college in the U.S. before re-entering the country. It’s your lab partner, whose mom can’t visit them in college because of their citizenship. It’s your professor, who refrains from leaving the country, simply because they are unsure of whether they will be let back in or not.
As a student of UCSD, I have had the privilege to interact with individuals from around the world. We are a population of 35,000 students, of which nearly 20% are international. This immense international presence has shown me the beauty of diversity. I’ve realized that from each country emerges unique culture and thought which is necessary for the advancement of our society. Though we naturally oppose those who are different from ourselves, it is this very diversity which permits our growth. In the midst of this ban, and the stereotypes and misrepresentation that comes with it, we should focus on the truth.
Throughout the last few weeks of the spring quarter I sought to do just that. I contacted Hamoun Dolatshahi, an alum at UCSD, who was heavily involved in activism on campus. As the organizer of various projects and protests, including the “UCSD against the Muslim Ban” protest, he was kindly able to put me in contact with various students from Muslim majority countries such as, Syria, Iran, Pakistan and Ghana. Hamoun was working on his own documentary, “Diversity within Islam”, which aimed to be a platform in which individuals from Muslim countries could speak of their unique relationships with their religion. Together, Hamoun and I explored different angles on the issues of culture and religion. The answers we received provided an authentic view on these topics which are far too typecasted in today’s society.