As a Muslim who grew up in Australia and who is reasonably engaged in politics and current affairs, my summer holidays have been quite full of emotion, to say the least.
Since Trump’s inauguration on the 20th of January 2017, there has been a consistent bombardment from the media of updates on the extreme political changes happening in America and effectively across the world. I’m sure everyone has their own perspective on everything, and this is mine.
It’s been one controversial decision after another, from changes to abortion law to granting access to the construction of the Dekota Access Pipeline, then actually planning for the insane wall and of course, the banning of 7 Muslim Majority countries from entering the US.
Logging onto any form of social media has been a nightmare, his face is haunting me everywhere I go.
His ridiculous words echo in every room I enter and in every page I open on my screens. Everyone is talking about him and his decisions, and it’s so frustrating.
I feel like there is nothing we can do to stop him, if he fired his own Attorney General, what could we possibly do to stand in his way? He has almost been successful in instilling hopelessness in my heart, crushing my spirit and turning me into a person who will simply accept this as the new apocalyptic reality.
ALMOST… but not quite.
Canadian Prime Minister. The first sign of light in the gloomy darkness Trump has illustrated. Trudeau has been amongst many other world leaders to critique Trump and seeing this has truly been motivating.
At a time when I almost gave up,
Trudeau tweets, “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith”,
his uplifting encouragement was well-timed, beautiful and sincerely appreciated.
Since then, he has shown a strong stance against Trump’s controversial decisions and a true sense of social justice which has been both refreshing and inspirational. When I compare him to our own Prime Minister who has been a joke in light of recent events, it makes me wish I was Canadian.
This piece is not a critique of the Liberal government, however I cannot speak on how I felt about recent events without addressing the alienation I have experienced due to the position of our Prime Minister, Malcom Turnbull. Turnbull tried to portray himself in the early months of his time in power as a man very concerned about Multiculturalism, and specifically a man open to work hand in hand with the Muslim community to tackle racism and Islamophobia.
He hosted the first ever Iftar (which is the breaking fast meal during Ramadan) held at Kirribilli House; which for some within the Muslim community was a glimmer of hope that the attitudes of the Australian government towards the Muslim community was approaching change.
However, his refusal to comment on the Ban and then the whole phone call Shenanigans juggling with the lives of refugees, that followed, destroyed any hope I could have had that Turnbull could potentially bring change.
“Malcolm Turnbull is breaking my heart. Why are all citizens equal, but some are more equal than others?” Yassmine Abdel-Magied said in her article “I broke Bread with Malcom Turnbull; Now He is Breaking My heart” in the Guardian, addressing this very issue as one of the attendees of that Iftar dinner.
Turnbull has made me feel ashamed to live in this country. He has made me feel like my needs and my community’s needs are not a priority for the current government.
Turnbull’s remarks have reminded me why it is important for us to speak up, voice our own opinions; especially since we cannot rely on our government to do that for us.
Protests and Activism
One positive that has come out of all of this is the fantastic strength people have shown in standing together against oppression and injustice. It truly is heart-warming to see people come together from all walks of life, faiths, backgrounds and genders to show a strong stance against Trump.
I feel as though it is the beginning of a movement that shows the power of the people – when people take matters into their own hands and don’t allow those in positions of power to act as they please.
I went to such a powerful protest here in Melbourne last Friday in front of the State Library in Melbourne CBD standing against Trump, specifically against the wall and the Muslim Ban.
As I was walking, a young Jewish lady tapped me on the shoulder. She was holding a banner that said “Jews say No Wall No Ban; Never Again”. She smiled at me and said “we will stand side by side with you and we will make sure nothing ever happens to you”.
My eyes welled up with tears; her support astonished me; as a Palestinian woman who has seen firsthand the hatred of the Israeli state that claims to be a Jewish state against me, a Muslim Palestinian, I genuinely appreciated her words, acknowledging this as a shared struggle and her presence, standing in solidarity with me and my community.
One side negative to the whole situation is the pity I see in other people’s eyes. People who want to stand against the oppression to support minority groups look at me, as a visible Muslim, with pity.
I was walking through uni heading towards my summer class, feeling drained from the 4 hours I had already attended of the 6 hour class and cursing myself for choosing to do a summer subject, when a woman stopped me and said “I just wanted to say that you don’t have to be afraid and you are always welcome here”.
I smiled at her and thanked her, of course, because I appreciated the notion.
However alarm bells rang in my brain and I realised what was happening. People are looking at Muslims as outsiders, outsiders who needed to be welcomed into the country.
Many of us Muslims are just as Australian, and feel completely as Australlian, as the next ‘white’ person next to us. However, the whole narrative that Trump has created has made us all look like people in need or people who don’t actually belong.
I just wanted to warn those who mean well against this. Muslims are just as much part of this society as everyone else. We welcome refugees; they are the ones that need to be welcomed as they are fleeing their war torn countries to seek refuge.
We need to realise the distinction between a Muslim and a refugee, the Muslim walking down the street is just an average person walking down the street who happens to follow a religion different than yours.
The reason it is being referred to as a Muslim Ban is because the Ban is on seven Muslim majority countries, but that doesn’t mean that all Muslims are refugees or that all Muslims have come from elsewhere. Of course, Trump is also targeting the Muslim community in America by wanting them to be registered etc.. however, that is a different issue than the current ban itself and it is not addressed through welcoming of local Muslims.
Despite the roller coaster of emotions world politics has put me on; it has also allowed me to grow and mature in my own perspective on the world and has renewed my belief in the power of the people.
By Aseel Sammak
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