OPINION: A student’s experience traveling from Pakistan in wake of Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’

Samana Sheikh, Contributor

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I continuously pinch myself, hoping to wake up from this nightmare.

I’m standing in a line at the Chicago O’Hare Airport, silently observing security guards as they harshly organize two groups. One contains people who have U.S citizenships. The other holds individuals with green cards and anyone who classifies as a minority.  

Traveling overseas to Pakistan, even as a U.S. citizen, was a grueling experience.

President Donald Trump recently laid out an immigration policy and executive order that aimed to “Make America Great Again.” The policy was supposed to help lower the number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. and help create more jobs for U.S citizens.

Due to the singling out of Muslims, many have dubbed the policy a “Muslim ban.”

Trump’s plan was later overturned, but it never should have made it so far in the first place.

This action suspended Syrian refugees from seeking asylum within the U.S. indefinitely and banned entry from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Saman Raza, a young woman I met in line at the Chicago O’Hare Airport, was watching security guards treat green-card holders like aliens.

She noticed a security guard talking slowly to a older foreign woman who had a thick accent. Then, security asked the woman to step aside for a “special check.”

The “special check” included a female security officer patting the woman down, head to toe, to make sure she wasn’t a threat. She was then taken into booth, and the door was shut while security presumably asked her questions.

“I am a woman,” Raza said. “I am a Muslim. I am also a citizen of the United States. It’s ridiculous that Trump is spreading hatred toward a minority group. This country is built off of immigrants, and we all originated from somewhere.”

Airport security treated me differently when they saw my mother was wearing a hijab. They acted like we didn’t exist and were extremely rude just because of our affiliation with Islam.

“I’m outraged by the amount of racism Muslims already face because of 9/11,” Pakistani businessman Hamid Mehmood said. “We aren’t stealing jobs, and we aren’t terrorists. We are peaceful people that want to be accepted.”

Mehmood is from Pakistan and used to want to move to the U.S. He does frequent business in America and feels that Pakistan is not a safe environment in which to raise his children.

He travels to Boston, Massachusetts, for business about four times a year.

“As a minority, and doing business with the United States for the last 10 years, my feelings are hurt,” he said. “Trump needs to do more research before aiming hatred toward one minority group.”

Mehmood has halted his business with the U.S. for the time being, and has taken his investments out of the U.S. stock market.

Many Pakistanis, especially politicians, felt upset about the ban and feared Pakistan would be added to the list of banned countries. They think Trump should separate religion from government.

The Hindustan Times, an Indian news organization, quoted Pakistani People’s Party Lawmaker Khurshid Shah as telling reporters, “What is clear is that Donald Trump is targeting Muslims, not terrorists.”

Sumaiya Siddiqi works for a nonprofit organization in Pakistan to help bring awareness to government affairs and voting.

“Separation of church is a thing,” he said. “I don’t understand why religion is involved. If this ban wasn’t aimed toward Muslims, then I could say at least this might make some sense. But this is outrageous.”

“I just wish I could have dinner with Trump and help enlighten his perspective on life. He needs someone to help him see that, without unity, we are nothing.”

Traveling to Pakistan following the ban and having a first-hand experience with religious intolerance showed me why many individuals think that the policy was a form of religious persecution.

“The way several people have suddenly shifted their perspective of Muslims shows that, in the near future, we will have to stick together and have a stronger sense of unity,” Siddiqi said.

The “Muslim ban” was put on hold due to judicial rulings. Many people worked tirelessly to ensure that it would remain inactive.

Fortunately, the travel ban was blocked nationwide in February.