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Muslim College Students Got Raw & Real About The Travel Ban’s Effect On Their Mental Health

At the end of June, the Supreme Court ruled that they would support President Donald Trump’s travel ban — the policy introduced just a week after his administration took office that would restrict individuals from seven countries (including Iran, North Korea, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Venezuela) from entering the United States.

At the time, Trump said in a statement that the decision was a “moment of profound vindication following months of hysterical commentary from the media and Democratic politicians who refuse to do what it takes to secure our border and our country.” As the ban affects a number of majority-Muslim nations, it has been called colloquially a “Muslim ban” and has inspired a pretty heavy amount of anxiety from immigration and religious freedom advocates since it was first introduced. 

Because of the very real political, emotional and mental impact this ruling has had on the Muslim community, Her Campus spoke with our network of college women to ask Muslim students how they were feeling right now. Not just about the latest development, but to also look deeper at how all of it (the ban, the rhetoric and discourse surrounding it, all the ignorant and emboldened anti-Muslim sentiments) overall affects their mental health as they try to live, worship, study and just exist during this difficult time. 

Of course, HC women are always strong and kind and sharp in the face of difficult conversations, so they weren’t afraid to get real about what this issue (and the cultural climate it contributes to) really means for their brains. Here’s just some of their thoughts:

First-off, they very much feel the effects of the ban, the constant coverage of the ban & how it plays into their identities as American Muslims.

“[The constant coverage has] made feel like I’m not welcomed in a country founded and created by immigrants because of my religion. My religion plays a major role in my identity, I’m Muslim and no one can take that away from me. However, I’m beginning to feel like I can’t fully express who I am anymore because of the strong bias against Muslims…People who know my name can easily assume my religion since the names are so distinct. These policy changes make me feel like those who are not Muslim feel a sort of pity for me. I constantly wonder if others think I pose some sort of threat to them and whether they will fully accept me or not. The travel ban certainly feels as if I’m not welcomed anywhere in this country, all because of the religion I identify with.” – Nishat Tarin, Hofstra University

“[The developing news of the ban] has simply made me more aware of the anti-Muslim sentiments that have been growing in America since 9/11. I view the Muslim Ban as a culmination of those anti-Muslim sentiments —fear, negativity, hatred, hostility, and acrimoniousness towards Muslims — that started on 9/11. It’s not made me feel unsafe; it’s simply made me more aware and more attentive. I’m more wary about my religious identity now, and I’m more careful to steer clear of anything that relates to Muslim talk, or Islam. It’s not concealment or avoidance per se, it’s an attempt to avoid talk that causes divergence and opposition among an already divided public.”  – Aliza Siddiqui, UC Berkeley

They notice an emboldened group of people spreading ignorance and Islamophobic sentiments but also know it’s part of a deep-seeded, older problem in the U.S.  

“The introduction of Trump administrations travel ban did not necessarily increased anti-Muslim sentiment rather [implied] that the biases against Muslims are true. The ban basically showed that Muslims from the Muslim majority countries on the travel ban list pose a significant threat and that they should not be tolerated. People are not afraid to say racial slurs anymore, recently this random guy on the street called women who wear hijabs, ‘Towel heads.’ I’m beginning to see the hatred more openly now.” – Nishat Tarin, Hofstra University 

“The amount of Islamophobia that’s being spread is insanity. I deal with it by showing people what Islam truly preaches, which is peace. It’s a sad time when a religion is judged on a few [individuals] rather than the religion itself. What’s worse is the billions of Muslims that have to deal with the constant media bias surrounding us.” – Rue, Georgia State University

“It made me realize that the people around me weren’t who they seemed, after years of knowing them. Classmates I went to school with, that were my acquaintances and even friends, were showing support for this ban and ignoring the fact that it was a hateful attack directed on me and my people. People who I thought cared for and supported me were for this ban that targeted one of my identities and that saddens me deeply, knowing I have to go to school everyday and face them…” – Amasil Fahim, Saint Louis University

And it definitely weighs on these young women, affecting their mental health and day-to-day lives.

“I try to avoid the news altogether and pretend nothing’s truly happening. It’s easy for me to do so because I have no one from those specific travel ban countries, but I cannot imagine how it must be like for other Muslim students. It makes me feel stressed and anxious about what would happen if it were extended to Pakistan or Oman or Bahrain, all of which are countries I have grown up in, was raised in, and spent my childhood in. Those are Muslim majority countries too, and if they are included in the travel ban, it would hit my heart close. I would be very extra worried then —not because I have any family who needs to come to the US from there, but because I know that there are millions of families who do.” – Aliza Siddiqui, UC Berkeley 

“…It’s as if you can’t practice your religion in peace anymore or be anything other than what’s acceptable. Where is the love? The beauty of America is that it’s a land full of immigrants none of us, none, actually are native to this land.” – Rue, Georgia State University

“It certainly affects my mental health because today it was these specific countries, more countries can be added. I’m Bangladeshi-American and Bangladesh is a Muslim-majority country and I wouldn’t be surprised if Bangladesh was added to the list. Most of my blood relatives live in Bangladesh and the thought of me not allowed to see them because of false accusations portrayed on the media devastates me. I’m anxious, worried and stressed because none of us did anything wrong to feel those emotions constantly.” – Nishat Tarin, Hofstra University

“…I worry everyday I go out that someone is going to say or do something to me because of my religion and how I visibly represent it. It makes me feel incredibly anxious because, while my home country is not currently on the ban list, I know the Trump administration is just itching to find a reason to put it there and it scares me because I have so much family there and that means I might never be able to see them again. I have my mother, who is going to visit in a few months. What if while she is visiting the ban is put on that country? What would happen to her how would she get back?These worries constantly plague me.” – Amasil Fahim, Saint Louis University

They have ideas for how campus communities can better support their Muslim students.

“Campus communities should create safe spots where Muslim students can actively speak about the negative experiences they face. Also, if any of us are faced with an unjust experience, we should get our justice. Schools, universities and workplaces should have a zero tolerance for any racial slurs and bias.” – Nishat Tarin, Hofstra University 

“Show love and support and give information that show [the truth]… Let people know why my religion is nicknamed ‘the religion of kindness.’ Be there to call out the Islamophobia that is prevalent on our college campuses and not ignore it.” – Amasil Fahim, Saint Louis University

But, no matter what, they are resilient and determined to offer words of comfort to one another where they can.

“My advice is to stay strong, continue reaching your goals and your success will define who you are. Don’t let false accusations and slurs get to you because you are not the negative things that are being said you are. Don’t be afraid to practice your faith and express yourself because that’s what makes our religion and our identity so unique and beautiful.” – Nishat Tarin, Hofstra University

Stand up for your beliefs, but also know it is okay to be anxious and scared, know that we are a network of people that spread love, support, and kindness. Never forget you are not alone and know that we are all in this struggle together.” – Amasil Fahim, Saint Louis University

For more insight into the travel ban’s effects, check out our friends at Brown Girl Mag who talked to South Asian Americans about their reactions to SCOTUS’ ruling

Katherine (or Katie) is the News Editor and resident witch at Her Campus. She first fell in love with journalism while attending SUNY New Paltz ('14). Since then, she has worked on the staffs at MTV News and Bustle writing about politics, intersectional social issues and more before serving as staff researcher at Lady Parts Justice League. Her work has been published in Women's Health, the Daily Dot, Public Radio International (PRI) and WNYC and she's been a regular panelist on a few podcasts (mostly screaming about repro rights.)  She is a Libra with a Taurus moon and a Scorpio ascendant, which either means nothing or everything. She loves strong diner coffee, reading tarot for strangers at the bar and watching the same three horror movie documentaries. She lives in the Hudson Valley with too many animals.     
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