UPDATE: Protests Begin, A Mosque Is Burned, as Trump’s Islamophobic Executive Orders Take Effect
The two faces of America
[UPDATE: According to reports and photos on Twitter, protests have also begun at airports in Atlanta, Boston (Logan), Chicago (O’Hare), Dallas Fort Worth, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C. (Dulles). Philadelphia has scheduled a protest for 2PM on Sunday, and other cities plan to continue their airport protests tomorrow as well. In short, check for one in a city near you!]
Right now, America is showing its two faces. Outside Terminal 4 at JFK International Airport, protesters are demonstrating against the overnight detention of twelve immigrants as a result of Trump’s most recent executive orders. And in Texas, a mosque was just burned to the ground (cause not yet determined).
At JFK airport, one of the twelve immigrants detained overnight has since been released. Hameed Khalid Darweesh, an Iraqi who helped the United States during the war in Iraq, is now able to join the rest of his family. Activists, lawyers, and Representatives Jerry Nadler and Nydia Velazquez advocated for his release and that of the other 11 detained immigrants. The ACLU and CAIR have also filed suit on behalf of all affected by the executive orders.
In the below video from CBS News, you can hear the protestors chant, “No ban, no wall, New York is for all!” and “No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here!” You can also hear Darweesh’s statement as he left the airport.
Darweesh’s comments after his release are absolutely crushing in their grace. “I want to thank the people that support me,” he said. “They leave their family, their business, and come to support me. This is the humanity; this is the soul of America. This is what pushed me to move, leave my country, and come here. I’m very, very thankful…Really, I forget what I face, and what will happen to me, because of those people.”
No country that would do this to him deserves such a decent, forgiving response. Period. However, that last sentence was a reminder that civic action matters, not just in what it signals to national leaders, but in what it signals to the victims of those leaders’ bigotry.
Two Syrian families detained earlier at Philadelphia Airport were already sent back to Qatar, and another Syrian refugee is scheduled to arrive at Dulles Airport, where there will be a rally in support of immigrants.
Trump’s executive orders have also come for Hollywood. Creatives across the film and TV industry have come out in support of Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, whose film The Salesman is nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards. Due to the ban, Farhadi may not be able to travel the awards ceremony on February 26. Farhadi’s 2011 film A Separation previously won both an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences issued a statement saying, “As supporters of filmmakers—and the human rights of all people—around the globe, we find it extremely troubling that Asghar Farhadi…along with the cast and crew…could be barred from entering the country because of their religion or country of origin.”
Meanwhile, in Victoria, Texas, the Islamic Center of Victoria was burned to the ground. Thankfully, no one was injured in the blaze, and authorities have not yet determined the cause. Although the mosque was previously burglarized and spray-painted, the fire could have causes other than arson. A GoFundMe has been established to help them rebuild.
Now, it’s partly coincidence that this took place the morning after Trump signed his executive orders (Holocaust Remembrance Day, in case you forgot). But it’s also true that both events contribute to the rising sense of Islamophobia in the United States, and the growing fear in Muslim communities. There’s a reason that the mosque fire felt so symbolic when I read about it. It’s less a question of whether it was a hate crime in this particular case, and more a question of whether we live in a world where hate crime is one of the likeliest explanations. I wish we lived in an America where Islamophobic arson seemed unthinkable, instead of inevitable–and it’s that other, braver, and brighter America that the protesters at JFK are fighting for.
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