It’s not a good time to be a young Muslim immigrant in America. If the president of the United States says publicly that you need to be vetted and humiliated upon entering the country, it’s difficult to imagine what Muslims living in the United States – particularly in conservative areas – have to deal with on a daily basis. But in these times of contempt and division, it’s the displays of unity that truly stand out amongst the darkness.
Two years ago, when a group of Muslim students visited the Texas Capitol building in Austin, Texas, they found protesters carrying guns who wouldn’t even let them speak. This year, the Austin community was not going to let that happen.
There were again protesters at Texas Muslim Capitol Day on Tuesday, waving Israeli flags and carrying weapons.
— Zaid Jilani (@ZaidJilani) January 31, 2017
But 1,000 more supporters showed up to protect the kids, the Texas Tribune reports, forming a human shield around the children and even encircling a screaming, racist protester at one point.
That gave 12-year-old Fatima Ali, an immigrant from war-torn Iraq, the chance to say this:
“It’s important to interact with people to make sure they know who we are. I want them to know we are peaceful.”
That sentiment was echoed by Laila Khatar, who said “We are here to show our Muslim identity. We are proud of it. At the same time, we are also American citizens and we are part of this community. We want to do what’s best for everyone to make our voices heard.”
Of course, under President Trump’s executive order signed Friday, immigration officials would have turned their backs on little Fatima, for no reason other than the name of the country she was born in.
You see, things have been particularly bad for Muslims living in Texas. A freshman Republican state representative there, Kyle Biedermann, recently sent a poll to mosques asking whether they support Islamic sharia law over the state law and insinuating that the places of worship were hotbeds of extremism. A young Muslim boy was arrested for bringing a home-made clock to school, and heavily armed protesters regularly demonstrate outside of Texas mosques. Mosques are regularly torched by racists in Texas. Ridiculous right-wing conspiracy theories alleging the existence of “secret sharia courts” and secret Muslim Brotherhood “training camps” are very popular among Texans.
On a side note, Mr. Biedermann seems to know a lot about reforming minority religious groups. He represents a district in Texas that includes New Braunfels, a region widely known for its large German immigrant population. Nonetheless, Mr. Biedermann thought it would be a good idea to dress up as a gay Adolf Hitler for a political fundraiser.
This is not fiction, as evidenced by the face that he had the good wit to post a photograph of the occasion on his Facebook. That photo has since been memorialized by the internet:
When asked about his costume choice, Biedermann told the Houston Chronicle that, “it’s okay because Saturday Night Live did it” and because he’s not gay.
It’s natural, then, that a group of nearly 70 white Texas high school boys would respond to the display of a black power fist by performing, in unison, the Heil Hitler salute during their senior photo.
Biedermann was gone during Muslim Capitol Day — imagine that — but he did leave the following statement online for them to read, according to The Tribune:
“Our liberties and our borders must both remain secure,” the statement read. “I am against any discrimination based upon religion, race or gender. Civil rights should be protected for citizens of the United States. A secure border is not just beneficial, but necessary for both citizens and immigrants of a thriving republic.”
Fortunately, the dozens of Muslim schoolchildren who visited the capitol on Tuesday got a much more important message, that even if the President of the United States claims you’re unwelcome, her people will welcome and protect you.