For Muslim women who observe hijab, it’s become hard not to feel wary about going out in public. This has nothing to do with any increase in white American xenophobia during the current pandemic, but rather because of the Trump administration’s latest — and seemingly ongoing— expansion of what’s commonly known as the Muslim Ban. For visibly Muslim women, the ban and its widening scope have become a significant problem, serving as a cover for racism. Since women in hijab are easily recognized as being Muslim, they have become the obvious targets.
When Refinery29 spoke to graduate student Janeen Radwan, who observes hijab, she told us how the Muslim Ban has had a huge impact on her and other hijabis. “It’s a manner of singling us out from our respective communities. It is already difficult living as a hijabi in the U.S. Wearing a headscarf is like wearing a giant flag around our heads. In a post-9/11 world, a hijab welcomes ignorant questions, glares, and insults — and these are just the minor offenses,” Radwan said. “This ban encourages a negative rhetoric that puts other Americans on their toes around those who are most visually Muslim, wearing a hijab. It makes us targets and villains to the rest of our American brethren."
Similarly, Durdana Rahman, a mother of three, explains how the implications of the ban makes her nervous to fly with her children. “I don’t want my children to see the humiliation that comes with my hijab. Trump’s expansion of this horrible ban is a manifestation that he is wanting to oust Muslims. By his implementation and expansion of the ban, that is allowing negativity to proliferate and this is not an isolated case.”
For those who observe hijab, the Muslim Ban can feel like another mechanism for weaponizing anti-Muslim bigotry for political gain. And this is not just limited to travel. When discrimination is sanctioned at a federal level with something like the Muslim Ban, it trickles down into all other parts of society, in areas ranging from education to employment to healthcare. This leads to everything from a lack of employment opportunities to lower incomes to being ignored when sick — something that’s particularly dangerous right now, in the midst of a pandemic. For those observing hijab, even in the best of times, the Muslim Ban can heighten anxiety to simply go outside and tend to everyday matters since they can be easy targets for hate. The impact of the Ban is a domino effect that effectively collapses all potential opportunities for those affected, spreading xenophobia further, and normalizing its legal implementation.
Zahra Billoo, Executive Director of Council on American-Islamic Relations of the San Francisco Bay Area, says, “The Muslim Ban is Islamophobia manifesting as policy, giving cover to racists in power to target people based on their faith and as a result also emboldening individuals to commit hate crimes. When our most powerful leaders are bigoted, it follows that ordinary people would follow, feeling as though they’ve been given permission. The impact is that Muslims are unsafe and unable to trust the government to protect them.”
In America, though, it can feel like the government only cares to protect one group of people: white, Christian men. This is, after all, a country where , white supremacy is the driving ideology behind most instances of mass gun violence, yet the administration prefers to target immigrants from what the President deems “sh*thole” countries for surveillance and deportation. The Ban exists alongside other policies that are marked by unprecedented cruelty to children and families, horrific conditions at detention centers, and actions such as the government’s recent deportation of a person with a valid visa —this was in spite of a judge’s order. Trump’s immigration-policy architect Steven Miller’s own emails show he favors and shares white nationalist ideas. Trump himself has called white supremacists “very fine people.”
Last year, the Trump administration said a major pillar of its economic strategy was to expand economic ties with African nations, including those that are predominantly Muslim. And yet, the administration showed its hypocrisy by first saying it want to build better ties, then banning nearly a quarter of the people from the continent, including those from Nigeria, the continent's largest economy. We cannot view the Muslim Ban and its expansion as an isolated policy. The implementation of the expansion not only hurts economic ties to the U.S., but also continues to marginalize immigrants and communities of color. Despite the administration’s claims of security, this policy is based on deep-seated racism and the need for an election-year showstopper.
But it's also not exactly a surprise. Trump’s promise to enact a Muslim Ban is one that stretches back for years, to the time when he was still campaigning. The current proposed expansion is about reminding his base of his delivered promises during an election year, and a component of his broader campaign targeting non-whites.
People across this nation must demand an end to the Muslim Ban and any expansion. That is why it is imperative for us to be calling on members of Congress to pass the NO BAN Act, a necessary civil rights bill that would immediately end this heinous ban and prevent future presidents from enacting similar religious, racial, and nationality bans ever again.
Refinery29 is proudly partnering with MuslimGirl.com to celebrate the fourth annual #MuslimWomensDay on March 27 by highlighting the real voices of Muslim women in 2020. This year’s theme is “Autonomy,” from redefining self-isolation to creating space in the narratives for voices that aren’t always allowed to speak for themselves.