For the last month, Americans United has been sharing stories of American Muslims and Americans perceived to be Muslim who have been harmed by President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban and the anti-Islam rhetoric that surrounds it.
With the U.S. Supreme Court poised to hear arguments in the Muslim ban legal challenge tomorrow, it’s important that we voice our support for American Muslims and counter the negative, inaccurate stereotypes of Muslims that Trump has been advancing.
A new video from the Pew Research Center highlights both the challenges and the hopes Muslims in America face in the current political climate. It is based on a Pew survey that I wrote about last year.
“I think one of the things that was most striking in the survey is the concern that Muslims express about their place in American society coupled with a persistent streak of optimism at the same time,” said Gregory A. Smith, associate director of research at Pew.
The study found that the vast majority of Muslims in America said they face discrimination and that Trump has them worried; about half said they’d personally experienced religious discrimination in the previous year and that it has become harder to be a Muslim in America. At the same time, they were nearly unanimous in voicing their pride for both the United States and their religion, and 70 percent said they believe it is possible to achieve the American dream if they work hard.
“The American dream applies to anyone, from any religion, in my opinion,” said Saleh, a dentist in California and a Syrian immigrant. “But for me, particularly as a Muslim, this is the push behind all the obstacles that I faced. That if you study, if you work hard, in this country, you will make it. You will be somebody.”
“We chose to be United States citizens because of the American dream, the principles and the American values,” said Kasar, an Iraqi immigrant who works in a Tennessee school. “We knew that America is not perfect, but we saw the potentials.”
Saleh and Kasar are among several people featured in the video who highlight the diversity of the American Muslim community. The speakers also include Kamal, a real estate agent in Tennessee who was born in America to immigrant parents and who considers himself to be a devout Muslim who prays five times per day, and Yasmin, an executive assistant in California, also the American-born child of immigrants, who rarely goes to a mosque and considers herself to be spiritually and culturally Muslim but not “religious.”
“The (Trump) administration and the politics of today have really pushed a lot of us to accept and be open with who we are,” said Yasmin. “Although it’s very scary to be openly Muslim, openly an immigrant … in this day and age. So I feel like I’ve had to say out loud, ‘I’m Muslim. I’m also American. I am both.’ Because we shatter those stereotypes.”
Several of the speakers said they’ve experienced both religious persecution and support from fellow Americans. Kasar, who wears a hijab, spoke of being harassed by a man while she was pushing a baby stroller in a public park. He called her a terrorist, told her to go back to where she’d come from and that Americans don’t wear headscarves. However, she said she received overwhelming support from friends when she wrote about the harrowing incident on social media.
Hasina, a doctoral candidate in Tennessee and the American-born daughter of immigrants, said she also has witnessed both the best and the worst of America: “It’s like this balance between the things that are happening in the media every day and the tweets that we read about and the media stories that come out, versus people really going out in the streets and advocating for change and trying to make a difference. People who are willing to speak out and stand up for what’s right and for supporting Muslims.”
At Americans United, we’ll continue to voice our support for Muslims and other religious minorities facing discrimination. That’s why we challenged Trump’s Muslim ban in court, including through a friend-of-the-court brief we filed with allies before the Supreme Court on behalf of the plaintiffs in our case, IAAB v. Trump, which explains the harm the ban has caused American Muslims.
And that’s why we’ll be at the Supreme Court tomorrow morning for the #NoMuslimBanEver rally. Please join us if you’re near Washington, D.C., or look for a companion rally near you (you can download and print AU rally signs here).
AU Executive Director Rachel Laser will be speaking at the D.C. rally, and AU Legal Director Richard B. Katskee will be in the courtroom to hear the arguments. Both Laser and Katskee then will fill you in on everything that happens Wednesday during a Facebook Live video at noon EST. I hope you’ll tune in!
(Photo: Yasmin, a Muslim American who lives in California and is the U.S.-born daughter of immigrants, talks about her experiences in a video produced by the Pew Research Center.)