Donald Trump signing document

President Donald Trump signing one of many executive orders in his first couple weeks in office.

Featured Contributor Shehla Ahmad says there are many aspects of the executive order which need to be examined.

Should we close our doors on others simply because we do not share their beliefs or they look different? Most of us would respond with a “No.” I remember recently when, thanks to social media, I saw posters and banners affixed on some shop entrances and their nearby locations in Pakistan saying members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community could not come into their stores. Many around the globe rejected this ideology as an act of outright discrimination.

Unfortunately, very few voices of influence were raised in Pakistan to disown the hatred. This was disheartening for someone like me because this was about my country of origin. Time moves on and now it looks like that discrimination may have changed its form but is trying to pave its way here in the U.S.A. disregarding the strong American values on which this nation was built. However, the massive sentiments of public support across the U.S. convey the personal disapproval for any form of discrimination, which is a positive reassurance that our country has a strong foundation of core values.

The recent executive order by the President about suspending visitors, immigrant visas and refugee programs is something widely discussed both inside and outside the country. This order is purportedly aimed to improve national security. We all as Americans want to keep our homeland safe. As an American Muslim, it’s even my religious duty to be loyal to and work for the safety and security of my country unconditionally. So, the debate is not at all about the goal which we all as Americans share in common, and keeping our country safe is our top concern and priority. However, many Americans strongly disagree on the path and criteria set forth for this goal.

There can be no doubt that we as a nation are stronger when #UnitedTogether. Terrorism and violence are ideologies which are against the true teachings of all faiths. But, generalizations and stigmatization are neither just nor practically beneficial except they may alienate their very own.

There are many aspects of the executive order which need to be examined. This executive order comes in the aftermath of a ban on Muslim rhetoric, increasing Islamophobia and is apparently not based on any new information. The seven countries which are subject of this executive order are predominantly Muslim-majority countries which creates fear for Muslims from these countries in particular and all Muslims in general as its portrayed by Islamophobes as a tool to promote fear mongering.

Unfortunately, the terrorist propaganda is available online and beyond boundaries. The heinous acts are committed as terrorists fall prey to the extremist propaganda and not because they follow a faith. It’s a fact that terrorists are the least religious people. We have seen terrorist acts when they got radicalized after they left their country of origin or got radicalized while not in the seven or any one of the Muslim-majority countries. We also have had unfortunate terrorist or mass shooting incidents of violence committed by non-Muslims and born citizens. The mosque shooting in Canada is one such example.

Thus, it would be prudent and beneficial if we continue to fight extremism across the board and not limit it based on faith. The blanket end of immigration from certain countries provides fuel to extremists as it becomes a tool for Islamophobes. On the other hand, cutting supply lines, funding, weapon supplies and controlling their propaganda directly would curtail the progress of evil minded terrorists.

The executive order in question directly hurts or affects the Muslims. There are Muslim American families who will fail to reunite due to such an order. We have to remember that the majority of refugees are genuine who need shelter and protection and should be let in as it’s already done after thorough due process. We cannot as Americans just leave them alone. And we should not as Americans make religion a criterion to discriminate against the visitors. No one can deny that the biggest victims of terrorists’ actions are Muslims themselves. When it comes to helping the vulnerable and persecuted, religious preference amounts to religious discrimination and is un-American. We should not prevent those people from coming to the US who want to flee persecution or reject the extremist ideologies or who had helped us in fighting extremism. We want to keep them as our allies. Yesterday’s immigrants and refugees have become today’s success stories; together we all work to make our nation great. We should not let go of our values which make America a great nation.

Symbolic gestures to stigmatize or isolate Muslims are not in our national interest. It will also make Muslim Americans feel less safe and may give air to prejudices, hatred, discriminations etc. Although the executive order does not say so, it is misconstrued by the Islamophobes as if Islam and Muslims are not welcome or are threats and incompatible with American society, which is far from the truth. We cannot deny these facts on the pretext that right now only a small percentage of the Muslims around the world are affected by it. The discussion about the executive order, as seen on talk shows or social media, boils down to the fears and misconceptions about Islam itself even though it’s not intended. It’s clear the perceptions created through this executive order affect Muslims negatively.

We should address real and imminent threats in the order of priority. We as a country would be safer when we target the terrorist ideology rather than a faith. We should not limit our generosities through discriminations contrary to our American values. And most importantly we should treat everyone with fairness and justice. A carefully devised policy is needed which does not further the gaps, divisions, and does not promote hatred or extremists’ ideologies by providing the recruitment propaganda to Daesh.

Muslim Americans and those who come forward as a #MuslimAlly are equally true Americans. We all should work together against the extremist ideologies regardless of faith, color or country. If a government is found to be supporting extremism, it should be held responsible but its people who are against the extremism should not be the ones who pay the price for it. We have to remember it matters what is spelled out in a law but it also matters how it’s perceived and what it leads to. We should make laws which make us stronger and safer and defeat the hate.

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