The Muslim Ban: Reflections on Organizing in Greensboro, NC

During the summer of 2018, I was a fellow for Muslim Women For working on our Muslim Ban campaign in Greensboro, NC. I was organizing discussion events around the Muslim Ban for the Muslim community. In the beginning stages of my fellowship, I was learning about the Muslim Ban in-depth and during this process, I learned that the Muslim Ban wasn’t just a ban but an attack on Muslims.

The Ban

By looking at the list of countries you can tell that there is biased towards Muslims because four out of the seven of the countries on the list are Muslim-majority countries. However, when you look at it depth, you learn that North Korea was only on the list because no one is allowed in or out of the country. The only other non Muslim-majority country on the list is Venezuela but it only stops certain government leaders and their families from coming into the United States, not the general public. The Muslim majority countries that are on the Muslim Ban are Yemen, Syria, Iran, and Libya.

Clearly, the administration strategically chose these four countries because knew that they would not lose anything by putting them on the list. It is not that the people from these countries cause a threat to the U.S. but that it would give the message that Muslims do not belong in the United States. When I learned this, it motivated me even more to hold discussion events for other Muslims to learn as well. I wanted to get these messages across so we could work as a Muslim community to help the people that this Ban affects and to hopefully change it. In politics today, we have seen fear tactics used to get policies passed. In terms of the Muslim Ban, the administration pushed the narrative that Muslims are terrorists which caused people to fear Muslims and support the ban.

Finding Space

I wanted to use the discussions on the Muslim Ban to get my Muslim community to learn about the ban and to find a way to combat it together as Muslims. I also wanted to use this space to hear people’s opinions on the ban. When I was organizing the discussions, it was very challenging for me to find a space to host this event for free.

Everywhere I would look would either cost money to reserve a space or were scared to involve their organization with such a political topic. I was trying to find spaces where Muslims would feel more comfortable speaking how they truly feel about the policy. So, it made the beginning process of my work very hard but thankfully I got help from American Friends Service Committee and they gave us a space to hold our event.

The Listening Sessions

My goal for the discussion events was to hold three different ones with different groups of people to gather a diverse amount of opinions about the Muslim Ban. For my first discussion, it went really well. We had a good group of people come to the event and learn things that they did not know about the Muslim Ban. We also talked about how we as Muslims could help combat the ban.

Unfortunately, by our second event the same people that came to the first event showed up to the second not knowing that it was going to be the same discussion.  We weren’t able to hold a second or third event because people were not coming out. At this point I started to feel hopeless and angry because it wasn’t going how I envisioned. I started to tell myself that there is nothing that I can do to actually get people talking about the ban if they did not care for it. I became so passionate about the work I was doing that I started to get angry with my community. It showed me that people only care when the topic pertains to something that affects them or their home country. I also acknowledge that the community that I live in is full of working class people that did not have the time to come to the event. But in my community, we have a problem of only caring for a cause that affects our countries instead of our Muslim Ummah. We look at problems as “that country’s” problem when we should see it as a problem affecting our fellow Muslims.

My Reflections

This experience allowed me to understand that not everyone is going to be as passionate as I am about a topic and I should not allow it from stopping my work. It also allowed me to see things from other people’s lenses. I realized that when I heard about the Muslim Ban I was angry about it but I stopped there and it was not until becoming a Muslim Women For fellow that I looked at it in-depth and realize how bad it really was. From there, I became motivated to do something about it. It taught me that with social justice work you have to be patient in order to see results. I came in with very high expectations and I thought I was going to achieve everything just like how I thought I would. It was a learning experience for me and has encouraged me to do more social justice work.

About the Author: Nora Khalifa

My name is Nora Khalifa and I am currently a junior at NC State majoring in Political Science with a concentration in law and justice. I have always been very interested in helping people and was trying to find a way to do so while also doing something that I enjoy learning about. My interest in policy making and helping people led me to get into social justice work, where I could do both at the same time.

I grew up in a household where my parents watched were news channels constantly. Naturally, I grew to love it, critiquing the flaws and leaving me motivating me to see the find ways to fit it and better help people. Though my parents are immigrants from Sudan, they remind me that America is also our country that it is our duty to help make it a better place.

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