THE MUSLIM BAN WILL DEPRIVE US OF SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL

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By Aisha Subhan
Contributing Writer

*This essay was originally published in The Huffington Post and can be viewed here. If you would like to submit a piece to us, then please email us. 

I, an American Muslim woman am devastated, heartbroken. This ban says to me that my country does not see all lives and human worth as equal. This ban says to me that our nation has developed a cold, wicked heart. This ban says to me that we blame Muslims, that they are the problem that we do not want them here, and we have no concern for where they end up dead or alive.

It didn’t take long for the ban to evoke such feelings, nor to estrange family members from each other, nor to take away someone’s basic desire to live.

Amid these grave injustices and a disheartening reality, I anticipate that the Muslim ban will deprive us Americans of something beautiful. Here, I wish to speak about the beauty of Islam and its followers through my own eyes both here and abroad.

I was born here in Chicago, Illinois and I have my birth certificate readily available for those who wish to get their hands on it. During my life here in America, I have cherished the Islamic values my grandparents brought with them from India to Pakistan and then to the US.

My grandmother has lived her life believing she could cure and mend the world. She is always giving, always on her feet, always leaving her heart open to others. On any given holiday, Muslim or national-American, my grandparent’s home in Southern California becomes an open house for family and friends without holiday plans. Effortlessly, my grandmother’s residence becomes a place all can call home.

Visiting my grandparent’s home, a few themes consume me and enrich my life with each visit. My grandfather’s passion for Urdu and Persian poetry that explore the love of God reflects the heart of the Muslim faith. My grandmother’s attentiveness and tenderness towards her guava and orange trees or her garden that grows mint and curry leaves find their roots in Islamic values. To love God is to love all his creation. It is to perceive one’s own consciousness in equal relation to the nature and reflections of paradise that surround them.

My love for both Islam and the Middle East has sent me across borders and into places like Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan. During my travels, I unearthed similar Islamic values but in a different setting.

While admiring an Arabic/Quranic calligraphy book, I imagined the artful strokes of the words raheem and rahman, mercy and compassion, coming alive within the Lebanese-Muslim home I enjoyed on an Eid morning. Muslims everywhere recite the words raheem and rahman, attributes among Allah’s 99 Divine Names, countless times a day. Like the other divine attributes, Muslims are guided to assume these traits on earth in their full human capacity. Mercy and compassion and forgiveness and generosity—these guiding principles profuse throughout the Muslim home.

In Palestine, the emphasis on the family and the way in which Palestinians live is nothing short of beautiful. During my time in Palestine, my host family extended to me the most gracious hospitality. I had never felt so taken care of. During my plane ride home I recall draping the airline blanket over my head, not to concoct some terrorist plot, but because I began shedding tears as my heart recollected all the care and compassion I received in Palestine.

For my trip in Jordan, I travelled with a bag full of Lego donations for Syrian refugees. As these refugee children played with Legos for the very first time, they seized the opportunity to the fullest. Their creative and innovative minds quickly took hold. The children assembled an array of creations on their own yet constantly appreciated the Legos now in their possession. Though deprived, these children still worked to present something beautiful and of their very own. I felt the warmness in their hearts, their eager minds, and their dreams waiting to become known.

In all of these encounters I sensed Islam’s essence and recalled Seyyed Hossein Nasr’s The Heart of Islam. Along with the words mercy and compassion, I perceived the Arabic word husn meaning both goodness and beauty. It is said that Allah loves beauty. In turn, beauty and love share in God’s relationship with creation. Of the most beautiful created things is the human soul. Islamically speaking, the human soul comprises of ihsan meaning virtue, goodness, and beauty. For human souls to fulfill beauty at its greatest height, is to please the One who loves beauty, to love his creation and to love Him, to open one’s heart to the compassion and mercy of the Divine, and to embody compassion and beauty in one’s own heart. And it is this beauty that contains the goodness and love necessary for peace and harmony on earth, in the cosmos, and in one’s center. It is precisely this beauty that I have felt and cherished within my experiences with the Muslim people both here and abroad and it is precisely this beauty that we will be deprived of.

Despite the challenges in our midst, I am honored and grateful for the beauty and love fellow Americans have extended to Muslims in recent months. Because human souls profess the upmost beauty, we must come together to protect them all.

Photo by Aisha Subhan 

2/11/17: THE WEEK IN TRUMP

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By Larry Silverton*
Staff Writer

This Week in Trump’s America

This is the second installment of a new weekly feature which will provide a brief summary of the week’s most prominent actions by the Trump Administration, as well as discussing some of their implications. The discussion of each topic will be relatively brief by necessity; please contact us if you feel we have neglected a significant action by the Administration or an important aspect of any issue.

  1. Cabinet Confirmations

This week, the Senate confirmed several of Trump’s Cabinet nominations – billionaire and charter school advocate Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General and Georgia Representative Tom Price for Secretary of Health and Human Services; with a few exceptions, voting occurred strictly along party lines. All three have raised widespread concerns and criticism. Many harbor uncertainty about DeVos’ performance of her duties as secretary due to her unsuccessful policies, potential conflicts of interest, and seeming unawareness of important topics in education. Detractors of Sessions cite longtime accusations of racism and his climate change denialism, casting doubt on his presentation as a champion of civil rights during the confirmation hearings. Most criticisms of Tom Price center on possible ties between his legislative agenda and personal financial gain, as well as his longtime opposition to the Affordable Care Act.

  1. Immigration Ban Update

Opponents of Trump’s immigration ban scored a victory this week as the Court of Appeals upheld Judge James Robart’s order blocking enforcement of the ban. In response to the Justice Department’s failed appeal, Trump tweeted that he would “SEE [them] IN COURT”, suggesting an intent to appeal the case to the Supreme Court echoed by Chief of Staff Reince Preibus , though sources conflict on this subject. However, Trump also said that he may issue a “brand new order” early next week, perhaps revising its wording to improve its legality.

  1. Diplomacy – Australia

Trump took part in several notable diplomatic exchanges this week; the first occurred with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Despite early positive signs, relations with Prime Minister Turnbull appeared to sour last Saturday when the latter urged Trump to honor a previous US commitment to take 1,250 refugees currently in an Australian detention center. Senior US officials say that Trump “blasted” Prime Minister Turnbull in response, bragged about the margin by which he won the Electoral College vote; Trump then hung up on Prime Minister Turnbull without warning only 25 minutes into a planned hour-long conversation, claim the sources. In the following days, the two made contradictory statements about the call to the public, with Turnbull claiming that the US would honor the agreement while Trump called it “the worst deal ever”.

  1. Diplomacy – China

Xi Jinping pressured Trump into an important political concession on Thursday, in the first phone call between the two. During the call, Trump agreed to honor the “One China” policy, which acknowledges that only one China exists and that Taiwan, which officially refers to itself as the “Republic of China”, is part of that single entity. Before the call, Trump had raised doubts as to whether he would support the One China policy in taking a call from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen. President Obama also previously voiced commitment to the One China policy.

  1. Diplomacy – Japan

Relations with Japan appear smooth so far for Trump. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s weekend visit began with a congenial press conference on Friday, in which Prime Minister Abe pledged to support Trump in addressing US unemployment. Trump emphasized the US commitment to defending Japan; this seems to contradict his campaign promise to force Japan to pay more for US military aid. The only notable bump appears to be a particularly awkward handshake between the two, who will spend the weekend with their wives at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

  1. The Russian Connection

Concerns about possible connections between Trump and the government of Vladimir Putin resurfaced this week as US investigators confirmed some details from the “Russia dossier”, a 35-page document gathered by a former MI6 agent. The dossier alleges that Russia possesses compromising information about Trump (specifically a video of Trump taking part in embarrassing sexual acts) and that Trump and his team maintained contact with Russian operatives before and during the 2016 election. As of this writing, the full text of the dossier is available here. On a related note, recent leaks revealed that before Trump took office, National Security Advisor Michael Flynn may have warned Russia of pending sanctions by President Obama and discussed potentially lifting those sanctions. These leaks could indicate violation of the Logan Act, which prohibits private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments on important policy issues. Overall, recent developments suggest that controversy about the alleged link between Trump and Putin may continue to plague the early days of the new administration.

*Because of the sensitivity of some of the topics discussed here and the reaction of the Trump administration towards the media, some writers have opted to use pen names when writing about the Trump Presidency. Likewise, some of our staff writers at Prospect Journal of International Affairs will be using pen names when discussing the Trump government.

Image by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

THE GLOBAL FORUM: THE NEXT FOUR YEARS

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By Thomas Finn
Contributing Writer

With various groups reporting fear, concern, or anger in the wake of 2016’s presidential election, UCSD literature grad student Soraya Abuelhiga hosted a Global Forum last week to address this very topic. A five-person panel built for diversity of academic perspectives on the next four years convened to discuss their predictions on what the immediate future holds. Abuelhiga first broached the subject of foreign policy, given recent events like Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Dr. Thad Kousser from our Department of Political Science admits that since the president has more unilateral influence in the realm of foreign policy, and many of Trump’s appointees have experience in business rather than the state department, his effect abroad remains harder to predict than past administrations. Dr. Zoltan Hajnal, from the same department at UCSD, contends that neither the best nor worst projections will come to pass, but foreign policy will remain status quo. However, he also notes that Trump’s Supreme Court appointment could have important implications, and that international views of America have changed dramatically, seeing this country as a more nationalistic nation turning inward and away from direct intervention abroad.

Dr. Dennis Childs, from a background in literature and ethnic studies, advises that we balance the valid feeling of impending precarity with a knowledge that the next four years actually seem far less exceptional in the grand scheme of the last 500. We necessarily build this country’s present on a long history of imperialist practices, including encroachment on Native lands, the Chinese Exclusion Act, and genocidal tactics in Vietnam.

According to Childs, policies like the North American Free Trade Agreement have led to a $4.8 billion transfer from Latin America to the US, unprecedented in history, with migrants following this flow of capital. Even if Trump renegotiates it, as intended, Mexico has already developed one of the widest wealth gaps in the world, one that has grown in parallel to the military-industrial complex burgeoning on the US-Mexico border for sixty years, as well as the ongoing War on Drugs (or War on People of Color as Childs calls it) that continues to tear families apart and destabilize Mexico. US annual defense-related spending has recently reached about $1 trillion and functions to enforce neocolonial economic hegemony in the world.

In this sense, maintenance of the status quo would really manifest as an escalation of aggression, because contrary to popular belief, Obama’s status-quo foreign policy meant killing civilians on a regular basis. His status quo involved funding what Dr. Childs and Desmond Tutu, both having visited Palestine, liken to Israeli apartheid in Gaza, and which Childs as an expert in prison studies likens to an open-air prison. Obama’s status quo included deporting 2.5 million undocumented people, adding up to the deportations of all presidents of the 20th century combined. Like Obama, Trump’s “status quo” could also very well entail the continuation and expansion of problematic trends like these.

Ashley Rodriguez, development coordinator from the Center on Policy Initiatives, notes that Trump will likely cut foreign aid, and attitudes abroad may make some countries, like those in Southeast Asia, less receptive to US-based non-profits and NGOs. On a more local scale, we have numerous municipalities responding to anti-migrant sentiments by becoming safe zones, and by fighting increased voter suppression of racial minorities. Rodriguez calls for more support to organizations like Planned Parenthood and the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium, which can help ensure that growing prosperity as a nation advances everyone at the same time, instead of leaving minorities behind and worsening inequality.

Dr. Nancy Kwak from the Department of History offers a brief explanation of how home ownership has led to current racial inequalities that Trump’s administration may exacerbate. Since homes serve as the biggest investment most people make, encompassing so much of their economic life, starting in 1933 the federal government started supporting home ownership. This began with explicitly racial policies, mapping every city to decide who should live where and to control risk-ratings that determine credit.

The government established high-risk areas, especially African American or Asian-majority areas, where people had lower credit. We now call this redlining, and even though the 1968 Fair Housing Act sought to fix it, areas like La Jolla still have a racial character due to white roots left over from decades of redlining. Longtime residents interviewed by the LA Times and La Jolla Light have attested to “white only” covenants for property ownership in La Jolla Shores before the 1960s, for example. According to Kwak, we still don’t have protected classes to ensure fair housing, and thus housing remains unfair and de facto racially segregated.

Trump’s nominee for US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Dr. Ben Carson, finds it undesirable to attempt urban desegregation, referring to anti-redlining policies as “social engineering.” As such, he opposes addressing these so-called “inner-city problems,” which Kwak instead calls fair-housing problems. On top of this, young people now buy fewer homes, creating uncertainty regarding the implications of this on the legacy of redlining still present in San Diego and cities across America.

Dr. Kwak also suggests that policies against immigrants rely on narratives that accredit certain groups with building this country, like the founding fathers via their own genius, while marginalizing others, for example by inadequately teaching the effects of racist policies like the 3/5 Compromise on the early political structure of this nation. Narrative differences have become divisive, and seem especially evident in recent popular culture, like the play Hamilton. This can have real-world consequences, for example affecting whether Americans support ideas like the DREAM Act, or ideas like English-only public schools.

Dr. Childs adds that the racist graffiti we have seen on campus likewise reflects this division, and shows that some groups of students have the privilege of feeling further from the border than others, or disconnected from the reality of our proximity to it. Trump’s narratives could not work if there were not a preexisting structure of white supremacy in our culture to build on. Though many politicians continue to rely on coded language and dog-whistle rhetoric to propagate discriminatory narratives, like attacking welfare by associating it with poor blacks, many voters admired Trump for voicing these narratives outright.

22 years ago, a similar kind of explicit support for reactionary policies ended up passing Proposition 187 to establish screening systems in California that prevent undocumented immigrants from accessing healthcare, education, and other services. Trump’s status as a “law and order” candidate also suggests he will stick to the status quo of militarizing US police culture, likely worsening the brutality inherent in our current criminal justice system. Childs goes on to discuss how East San Diego has always had a climate of unease due to police presence, with “to protect and serve” on every police car becoming an ironic joke to many black residents.

Majority-black schools face increasing militarization, and Dr. Childs claims that Ku Klux Klan violence has dropped at an inverse proportional rate to state execution of black people, effectively replacing extrajudicial violence with judicial violence. 2.4 million people currently live in cages, costing 70 billion dollars per year, not executed but condemned to “living death.” Pelican Bay State Prison on the California-Oregon border has the most solitary confinement on the planet for gang affiliation.

30,000 inmates went on a hunger strike in 2013 against indefinite solitary confinement. To highlight the lack of oversight, Childs points out that the California watchlist for gang affiliation includes dozens of children under the age of one who supposedly admitted their crime to law enforcement. 33 black San Diego locals were arrested under Penal Code 182.5 for gang affiliation, two of whom, Aaron Harvey and Brandon Duncan, personally came to UC San Diego in February 2016 to describe the ridiculously loose and often racist criteria for gang affiliation. One man was put in jail for months, despite never having joined a gang, solely based on a Facebook photo in which he appeared alongside another convicted gang affiliate.

These individuals lose employment opportunities, perpetuating structural poverty cycles and hurting the economy. Prisons appear in county, state, and federal budgets, meaning our taxes support the prison-industrial complex at every level, and Dr. Childs expects expansion under Trump. He posits that although black Americans may have fought for abolition in the Civil War, the 13th Amendment has allowed the state to take the place of plantation master, since all black Americans live under the threat of reenslavement, and this does not change, regardless of the party in power.

Democrats may have increased the black middle class, but black poverty has expanded under either party. Obama also directly played a part in arming local police forces, like San Diego’s force with a literal tank. Only after Trayvon Martin’s death did Obama even feel the national discourse forced him to address police violence as a mainstream issue, and until then had blamed black men for their own situations and called on them to act as better fathers, a tactic shared by Republicans.

Re-entry programs remain minimal and ineffective for former prisoners, so with over 5 million people permanently disenfranchised from a felony conviction, their subsequent inability to find jobs often pressures them to turn back to crime. 148 women were also forcibly sterilized in two California institutions as recently as the last decade. Childs argues that injustices like these, alongside incredible recidivism, prove a failure of the justice system, but a success of capitalism.

The prison-industrial complex profits off construction, telecommunications, and other industries that prisoners must interact with, utilize, or consume at inelastic prices while in prison. Childs concludes that the promised philanthropy of “black capitalism” ignores the horrors caused by capitalism in the first place, and indeed, perpetuates them. He personally calls on students to structurally analyze not only macro-scale historical trends, but also what role UCSD trains us for as individuals in this dangerous status quo.

He remarks that whether a Republican or Democrat wins the presidency, this would remain true, and we all have a responsibility for analysis. With stark barriers to changing America’s foreign policy, immigration law, racial inequalities, or prison-industrial complex at the federal level, students should still pursue change on other levels, like state, county, or city, in addition to forming coalitions to achieve goals beyond the often-futile endeavor of electoral politics. With Trump’s administration poised to continue an unsustainable status quo, it remains up to us to take matters into our own hands.

Photo by Gage Skidmore