Jan. 27 is designated International Holocaust Day by the United Nations. On that day, President Trump issued an executive order imposing a ban on entry from seven Muslim countries and suspending all refugee resettlement from Syria.
Not only does Trump’s order violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment and the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, but it also echoes a warning from history.
The last time the U.S. refused hundreds of Jewish refugees from entering New York was during WWII. Many who returned were mercilessly killed in German concentration camps, including Anne Frank’s family.
President Trump should learn a lesson from history, not repeat it. He should promote the great American values of freedom, equality and pluralism. The restriction on Syrian refugees has devastated loved ones and crushed their hopes for being reunited with their families. According to Scott Michael, Director of World Relief, his office in Richland is working overtime consoling Christian and Muslim Syrian refugees who are devastated because of the uncertainty.
The local World Relief resettles an average of 225 refugees including women and children. Recently, the arrivals have been from Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Ukraine, Burma and Iran. Thirty seven percent of Iraqi and 95 percent of Iranian refugees are Christians.
There are roughly 150,000 Muslims who live across the state of Washington, and of those, approximately 1,000 live in the Tri Cites. Ten thousand Muslims serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. American Muslims participate actively in mainstream society as workers, citizens, voters and neighbors and give back to our local communities as volunteers in fire departments, PTA’s, food banks and other social organizations.
We have American Muslim doctors and heart surgeons here in the Tri-Cities, like Dr. Jamali and Dr. Chaugle, who save lives every day. We have Red Cross volunteers like Zonia Ziada of Kennewick, who has responded to the crises in Hurricane Katrina, the Oso mudslide and many other natural disasters. Dozens of Muslim public school teachers across our state like Haya Ahmad of Richland are energizing and inspiring the next generation of Americans. Amira Salami, a social worker for World Relief (a former refugee), and Laili Abdlatif, a nutritionist for the Benton County Health Department, are also inspired by their faith every day.
There are two mosques in the Tri Cities, one in West Richland and another in Kennewick. Both welcome visitors of all faiths.
American Muslims share the same values and freedoms that all Americans cherish. Our Muslim community serves in partnership with the local agencies in resettling refugees by providing valuable financial, emotional and spiritual support as well as serving as volunteer interpreters in our public schools, courts, hospitals and social organizations. Hala Abdelaal is one of those interpreters who serves God by serving humanity and her community.
Muslims share the same beliefs as Christians to practice loving strangers and being mindful that Jesus was himself a child refugee who was forced to flee a tyrannical genocide.
Security is undoubtedly of utmost importance, however, refugee entry should be based on risk and vulnerability, not religion and nationality.
Muslims of the Tri-Cities stand committed to praying for Trump and his administration and would like the local congregations, synagogues and temples to join them in prayer and to ask God to guide the president in making vital decisions for millions of vulnerable people in the United States and around the world.
The U.S. should remain a beacon of hope for the displaced. The ban traumatizes refugees, most of whom are women and children trying to flee terror. Isn’t that something that we as a nation are trying to fight?
Sabiha Khan teaches social studies at Kamiakin High School. Dr. Zeeshan Khan is the vice president of the Islamic Center of Tri Cities. He is a pediatrician at Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland.