On Jan. 27, 2017, the forty-fifth president of the United States signed an executive order that restricts immigrants and non-immigrants from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya and Yemen to enter the US on any visa category. His order also suspends all refugee admission for 120 days and prohibit all Syrian refugees for entering the country indefinitely. While he and his staff have said this policy is not a Muslim ban, it sure sounds like it is.
As an international student, it is cause for concern and as an international student from Indonesia, a country with the largest Muslim population in the world, I cannot deny that I am worried.
When I came to the United States here almost two years ago, it way not easy. I needed to study hard and pass some tests before receiving the scholarship that allowed me to arrived here. It was a long journey with a big sacrifice. I needed to leave my family, friends and my comfort zone where I am part of the majority.
What for? I think it is no different than the reasons other people who come to the United States. I wanted to pursue my dream. I wanted to get better education. I wanted to experience diversity. I wanted to share my ideas while capturing the perspectives of others and show who I am – a Muslim student with hijab who loves peace, making friends, having fun and studying hard. I wanted to ultimately learn what freedom is.And it has all been worth it. I have gotten everything that I expected during my study at Montclair State University, not to mention even more. I do not just have great professors and class mates, but I also met many new friends from all around the world; Iranian, Afghan, Egyptian, Mexican, Syrian and many more. Talking with friends from different countries is a great opportunity that I would have never have if I had not come to the United States of America. I am continually amazed when I share an idea, look into different perspectives and ask questions about particular subjects to friends who directly come from a country that I want to know more about. It is truly wonderful.
Unfortunately, every good thing that I felt suddenly changed in one click.
Beginning with the result of the presidential election, which was won by someone who spread hatred about Muslims, I started questioning myself. “Am I really accepted here?”
I was looking to everybody that I met on the street, bus, class and everywhere else, and thought to myself, “What are they thinking about me?” For the first time in the United States, I feel unsafe and afraid.
The feeling was strong; at that time that I lost my concentration for studying and didn’t want to go out from my room. Luckily, I got support from my professors and friends who hugged me and said, “We are so sorry you are experienc[ing] this situation. But, don’t worry—you are safe here. We will be your human wall to protect you.” Their kindness made me feel so much better.
Last Friday, I saw a new side of this country—the country of Americans who I love, respect and trust. The new president signed the immigration policy that banned people in seven Muslim countries from entering into the United States of America. I feel sad.
I am sad because, due to this current situation, I just want to finish my studies and go back home soon. Luckily, I have a place to feel safe back in Indonesia. But how about the refugees who are not as lucky as me, who wanted to come here to have a better life? They no longer have a place to call home, and it leaves tears in my heart when I am thinking about them.
I am sad because I feel I am not in the same country that I arrived in nearly two years ago. While it looks like the policy could be changed anytime, still, I never know what will happen next.
However, I see kindness and humanity everywhere, as soon as the policy was signed. People, no matter what their religion, stood up for Muslims in airports. Lawyers and translators were working together to help in any way they could. Some governors were speaking to protect their residents. Many Americans came together to protest the ban. Universities stood up to protect their students.
The new president’s words and policies have broken my heart. But Americans remain great. I owe a lot to you guys, to stand for Muslims and humanity. Thank you.