A MUSLIM-AMERICAN FEMINIST BESIEGED
Each passing day of the Trump administration brings new assaults leveled at my humanity. I am a secular, Muslim, Bangladeshi-American woman, an immigrant who has also been a refugee. In addition, I am an outspoken progressive and feminist. And every news cycle seems to reveal the rising ideology of hate — as well as hate crimes — against all of these groups.
The sense of being attacked personally hit home last week with Trump’s travel and Muslim ban. News of the horrific act of closing our borders to refugees transported me back to my childhood, when, at the age of six, I too became a refugee. The ban resurrected memories of pain and difficulty. Of course, the ban against people from seven Muslim-majority nations served only to heighten my fears for my family and me. Suddenly, the realization hit me — I had become the face of an “enemy” to my country, America.
My sense of threat is compounded because every issue to which I have devoted my professional life is also under siege. I have spent a large part of my career focused on ensuring women’s rights in matters ranging from abortion to maternal mortality and female genital cutting/mutilation. In fact, fifteen years ago I fought against the global gag rule, an expanded version of which was announced by the Trump administration on its first full day in power. Trump’s plan will potentially affect $9 billion in federal aid and will almost surely result in higher rates of unplanned pregnancies, maternal death, and unsafe abortions. In addition, I have worked in an environmental organization championing conservation and sustainability. As we all know, the Trump administration has declared war against these rights and the science of climate change.
The intensity of my fears increases daily as I see this administration’s unprecedented extremism. Previous administrations, even those eager to wage war globally while limiting the rights of women and immigrants, did not act so swiftly, so bluntly, and with such blatant disregard for the rights of both its own people and those of the wider world. It is hard to believe that we can now look back almost wistfully at the George W. Bush years. For although President Bush led us into wars both abroad and domestically, his public statements called Americans to respect the contributions of Muslim Americans to our nation and paid at least lip service to the U.S. being a nation of immigrants. I can’t imagine President Trump even coming close to taking such positions. Nor, of course, could I have ever imagined that my adopted country would elect such a xenophobic president.
So what happens next? While nobody knows for sure, I shudder to think about all the possibilities…
For example, I must now contemplate a scenario wherein I, an American citizen, will be required to register because of the religion into which I was born. I had always thought it impossible that we would repeat the horrific bigotry that resulted in the internment of Japanese Americans in 1942. But now I am not so sure. I am a non-practicing and secular Muslim… yet simply because I am a Muslim I could be subjected to additional surveillance and forms of discrimination that have been unimaginable in my lifetime. I don’t even allow myself to think about what all the acts of hatred could mean for my daughter — that terrain is too unknown and fearful to explore at the moment.
However, I know with certainty that my core professional concerns — women’s rights, choice, human rights, and climate change — are under nuclear-level threat. I know that there will be escalating attacks on multiple fronts.
Finally, I know these truths to be self-evident. Millions of people in America feel like I do. Millions of women have spoken powerfully about our commitment to equality and justice. Millions of young people are mobilized as never before. Millions of non-Muslims are willing to register as Muslims. Millions of us will continue to march, protest, organize, resist, donate our time and money, and do whatever else we can to ensure that our government reflects our values.
We are all Americans first and foremost. As we move into more uncertain times, we need to hold steadfast to our ideals for a just society by remaining informed, vigilant, and politically engaged. If we do, the future will be ours.
“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it — always.” Mahatma Gandhi.