Travelling to the U. S. at the Announcement of the Muslim Ban

When the news came in
The executive ban to restrict entry of muslims from seven muslim-majority countries to the United States came on the 27th of January 2017.

I was due to travel to Los Angeles on the morning of the 28th, and I was on my way to the airport when I heard the news all over my social media feed.

I was running out of sighs for Trump, so I saved my breath for the long travel ahead of me. I did not experience any maltreatment or discrimination while I was travelling, by airline staff or strangers who were travelling together.

I was clearly muslim for everyone to see, and friends would text every now and then to ask if I was doing OK.

24 hours later, I arrived at LAX, pass through all but one security checks because an airport dog sniffed the much loved Chipsmore cookies that I still had in my hand-carry.

Doggie got me held up at the airport Exit Control. I was a little bit frustrated but who could stay angry at the sight of a cute dog, really?

After checking my luggage and going through my passport for the umpteenth time, which did worry me because I was just in Iran last December, the Customs Border let me go.

Upon exiting, I was rejoiced at the sound of protesters outside the airport, showing their support for muslims who would be affected by the ban, and the refugees who would be forcibly sent back to their misery.

I was greeted by my handler, who was visibly worried for the people under his care for this trip, who happen to be muslims from Malaysia, Pakistan, Lebanon and Jordan.

And he wasn’t the only one.

The author in Tehran, December 2016

Nationwide disgust
I was lucky to be going to a progressive part of the U.S. where the people are largely appalled by the move.

As I was walking down the streets of Hollywood on the second day that I arrived, I came across a woman who was raising donation to support the mobilisation of Americans against the Muslim ban.

I stopped to talk to her, and gave her my spare change because I haven’t got much money on me.

In return, I was given a nice poster with a message of solidarity.

The circumstances at the time made me forget to take a photo with her as she stood in front of the Metro Station to raise awareness against the Muslim ban, but the sight of her doing what she was doing, simply because she cared enough to do something, moved me to tears.

Simple poster in solidarity with muslims in or coming to America, against Trump’s executive order on the muslim ban

I was also crying after the fact because I got lost in a city I just arrived in, but that’s a story for another day.

Progressives recuperating
The Executive Order has really shocked the world into a fear-driven frenzy, but there was also a lot of empathy.

I’ve been in the city for four days now, and two days into the transmedia workshop I am here for. Knowing that we’re muslims, our hosts and guest speakers couldn’t stop expressing their regret over what’s happened in the last presidential elections.

After Trump won the Presidential elections, there were support groups set up to counsel grieving staff members and students.

I could appreciate the need for such support groups because being a malay muslim feminist in Malaysia, chances are high that your mental health is under constant stress, with rare and little avenues to express yourself freely without fear of persecution.

I refrain from imagining what the next four years would look like for America. In many ways, though not as dramatic as this, Malaysia has been going through a similar process for a while.

Calls for segregation and division, between the muslims and the non-muslims, get increasingly pronounced each day.

The micro-aggression is always in the little things: a call to ban the word ‘dog’ in Pretzel dogs, or a call to separate shopping carts for muslims, or a fatwa on the legitimacy of Sunni-Shia marriages.

Taken in Downtown LA. Trump’s election as President is akin to a “detour” on hope. Photo credit to the author.

Combine this ultra-paranoid race to out-Islam one another with the socio-economic insecurities of the disenfranchised malay-muslim majority, we have a social disaster of the authoritarian kind.

It may have taken longer to manifest, but it may just be scarier to imagine for much of the muslim world, especially when the first victims of power-hungry male bickerings tend to be women and children.