Author Archives: syjilashraf

About syjilashraf

Syjil is a Pakistani-American journalist and struggling-to-stay-up-to-date blogger. An avid Harry Potter geek with a train wreck of thoughts and a mouth that won’t stop running, Syjil’s blogs, poems, and fiction often address politics, social issues, Islam, desi culture, and things people don’t want to hear. She is also currently working on a novel, but won't say much more than that. twitter.com/thedailysyjil

How one tweet changed my life (actually, just my day)

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Trump’s meltdown and the subsequent media (particularly social media) reaction kind of made the world feel sane again. I feel like more people are finally giving all of this the freak-out it deserves. My favorite freak-out last night, however, was my dad’s over my tweet being featured in a Huffington Post article.

But apparently my come up isn’t over.

 

Thank you, Sara Haines. I’m (very, very) available for hire.

As for my newfound fame, here’s a list of my next steps:

  • Book deal. “Gola Ganda Dreams” has a nice ring to it, don’t ya think?
  • Disney World. I’m in need of a vacation from my chronic underemployment.
  • Reality show. (No seriously, I’ve got a wedding coming up and my family’s drama makes the Kardashians look like C-SPAN.)
  • Pretending I don’t know people when I see them (I can do passive aggressive better than you).
  • I get free tickets to Warped Tour now, right?
  • Finding someone else to update my blog for me.

I made it, Ma! Now I should probably sit down and explain Twitter to you.

Sorry, ‘legal’ Muslims aren’t safe… even if they’re doctors

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This one’s for my doctor family members/friends.

The topic of the Muslim ban has been a rollercoaster for American Muslims. The 9th circuit shot down its reinstatement after Trump saw them in court (heh), but there’s talk of it going higher up and people are concerned about being asked about social media passwords, more countries being added to the list, wedding shopping being put in jeopardy, CBP officers just being all around jerks (seriously, click on that link, you need to hear it). In my own neck of the woods, there were reports of people being harassed for proof of legal status in certain neighborhoods that were clearly racially targeted.

Regarding all of this, a relative of mine stated that those who haven’t done anything wrong have nothing to fear and that if the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol is giving someone with a green card trouble, then there must be a reason.

It’s always so, so hard to see your loved ones forget where they came from.

The fact of the matter is that no, this country does not treat us all equally and with liberty and justice for all. No, working hard is not enough nor is it the monopoly of those who “came here legally.” (Why, this entire country was founded on “illegal immigration,” my dears.) Undocumented immigrants work just as hard as the rest of us, and often times, harder than many of us. That being said, doing things the legal way, the right way, following orders and keeping your head down is. not. a. guarantee. Especially when you are a person of color.

Just ask the hundreds of unarmed black people shot by police, the dozens taken down by a bullet in the back.

Just ask the 26 (confirmed) people wrongfully detained after September 11th when their only crime was being Arab/Muslim.

I’m not one to beat the “If you’re a doctor, you’re a paragon of citizenry and humanitarian good” narrative (sorry, Mom, you tried), but one must admit that most immigrants who come to this country and break their backs putting themselves through the physical, psychological, and financial torture that is residency tend to be good people. Whether or not there’s parental pressure involved, once you go through a few months of getting coughed on and yelled at and sticking your fingers in places you’d rather not stick them, you can’t help find yourself in it for the long haul. The men and women that go through the grueling process of immigrating here and then dedicate themselves to serving their new countrymen and saving their lives… well, those are the kind of the people who help make our country great (although, I guess we could blame them for keeping the Baby Boomers so healthy and able to destroy our economy and morale, but that’s another blog post). We’re all agreed on that, right? Right.

Well. Not all.

 

Are all immigrant doctors fantastic people? Nope. (Sorry, Mom, some of the people I’ve met in your social circles suuuuuck.) But they’re not going to waste their time going through medical school, taking the USMLEs, getting a visa/green card/spouse, going through immigration, going through the hell that is the match process… to plan a terrorist attack or spread Sharia law. (Although they won’t say no to a new halal joint close enough for them to grab a late night snack on call.) Speaking of that hell, the match process is like the Sorting Hat on Steroids Even Lance Armstrong Would Not Go Near. Cleveland Clinic, one of the best hospitals in the country, probably knows this woman’s childhood cat’s middle name and what her dad ate for breakfast (and how all of that will affect her ability to practice medicine). Basically, the fact that she’s even a doctor at Cleveland Clinic means she’s been vetted and she’s a good enough person to stick her fingers in patients at one of the toughest places to get a residency.

Unless her dad ate the plain Cheerios over the Honey Nut, she didn’t do anything to be forced out of the country except be a Muslim. And we’d do well to remember that.

Trump rumored to add more countries to ban list, including Pakistan, Egypt, and Afghanistan

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Hearing through the grapevine (the immigration lawyer grapevine, to be exact) that there is a draft of an executive order which adds the following countries to the current ban:

  • Egypt
  • Lebanon
  • Afghanistan
  • Pakistan
  • Colombia
  • Venezuela
  • Southern Philippines
  • Trans-Sahara (Mali)
  • Sulu/Sulawesi Seas Littoral

Rumor is that this executive order is to be given tomorrow. It is uncertain whether this will affect green-card holders (as in, permanent residents who have already been extremely vetted) and dual citizens. The last executive order did/does not apply to dual citizens who hold US citizenship, but no word on whether this one will be the same. (This is of particular importance to my family and me, as most of us are dual citizens of the United States and Pakistan.)

Note that a few of these are not Muslim-majority areas (the Southern Phillipines do have a sizeable Muslim population, however). I’m not sure whether this is specifically designed to make it seem as though this is not targeting Muslims, but Rudy Giuliani has already confirmed for us that a ban on Muslims has always been Trump and his administration’s intent. There is also the fact that the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv has assured Israel that its (Jewish) citizens holding dual nationality with one of the banned countries would be exempt.

I hope these rumors are mistaken. But as my fiancé just noted, “it’s starting to feel like Trump just executed Order 66.”

Making America racist again (even though it never really wasn’t)

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Trump’s Muslim ban is having consequences for more than visa and green card-holders from the seven listed countries. My best friend and cousin, Faiza, was returning from her honeymoon in Belize Saturday evening, when she was held for hours at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. I caught sight of her husband’s Facebook post while at a birthday party (her brother’s 40th, incidentally):

I saw the post not long after he put it up, so my jaw dropped when I saw how widely it had spread the next day. What amazed me even further was how many people in the comments were accusing Javad of lying. I know the people involved personally… Indeed, very closely. I can assure you that they are both U.S. citizens; Javad was born here and Faiza lived here her entire life (the only reason she wasn’t born in the US is because her mother was visiting family at the time of her birth). Both of their families are from Pakistan, a country that is not even part of the executive order.

I’m not sure what part of this does not “add up,” as I saw multiple people on the post claim. Muslims and people of Arab and/or South Asian descent have been harassed and intimidated at airports consistently for the past 15 years (yours truly included). What happened to Javad and Faiza isn’t surprising to me in the least, but it’s alarming all the same. While speaking with Javad, he pointed out how the customs personnel did the maximum they possibly could to harass these two and get away with it. The CBP kept Javad and Faiza long enough to cause them distress, but not long enough for them to miss their flight. Had they missed it, the airline or airport would have been forced to accommodate them for a new flight as well as lodging, which would have required a report as to why they had been held so long (the reason being none).

While my cousin did make her flight in the end, this isn’t something to be brushed off. Children were detained at these airports, and I can’t tell you how many petitions I’ve seen for international students being kept from returning to complete their studies (many of them on scholarships). Even if your country of origin (or your family’s) is not on the list, what’s to stop Trump from adding them overnight? What’s to stop him from adding all Muslims, regardless of nationality overnight? Honestly, what’s to stop them from escalating it to camps? A Trump crony did mention the Japanese-American internment camps as precedent back in November.

Just as an executive order like this emboldened those customs personnel to harass my cousin, the executive order— indeed, Trump’s election itself— has emboldened bigots all over to harass, intimidate, and even attack Muslims. Take the shooting at a Quebec City mosque last night. Richard Spencer, despite being punched in the face twice already, had this to say in response to that tragedy:

Don’t kid yourself by thinking that Spencer or those who shot up the mosque are outliers. The fact is that they’re not not, and that there’s a reason the alt-right movement is taking so much power. You need to take that power back (yes, you). Figure out how to contact your representatives and tell them about your concerns. Demand they take action. Here are a couple different scripts you can try if you’re stuck on what to say (along with some good ideas from Laura Silverman’s Twitter feed):

It’ll only take a few minutes of your time, but it could affect us all for far longer.

America needs to catch up with Muslim women’s empowerment

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America needs to catch up with Muslim women’s empowerment

So there was a bit of a snafu with some posts I was waiting to have published on MissMuslim, but all is forgiven because I’ve got one up (and because I have a bit of a crush on Editor-in-Chief Jenan Matari). One of my favorite past-times is spectacularly shutting down Western misconceptions about Muslim countries and Islamic law and history. As an American, I am really disappointed that my fellow countrymen are such misogynists that they picked Cheeto Voldemort over just-as-qualified-as-she-is-corrupt Hillary Clinton. But I can’t help but be a bit… smug about the fact that White America has yet again failed to do what Muslims have been doing for years. (And yes, it was White America. Check the polls. More on that later.) There, I said it. I’m not proud of it. I don’t revel in the fact that the U.S. still hasn’t had a female head of state. I’m not really about that moral superiority life. But it’s nice to take ignoramuses down a notch.

My list comprises of eight heads of state who happen to have an extra X chromosome. (Click it. Click the pretty, red words.) Seven of these countries are Islamic states; one of the countries is not, yet the head of state in question was herself Muslim with a lot of Muslim support). One of these Muslim countries even has a female atheist head of state. Food for thought for those who enjoy putting 1.6 billion Muslims in a box without a semblance of nuance or historical context.

The (Election) Hangover

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I’m sitting here trying to write something because, well, if there’s going to be one time I don’t neglect this blog, it’s today… But it’s like. Shit. What the hell do I say?

All of the people of color around me look resigned. The white folks, however, look shell-shocked. This is what happens when you’re too afraid to engage your racist relatives at Thanksgiving. This is what happens when you don’t do the work on educating your Trump-supporting friends. I’m not saying they can all be convinced. But the silent majority that cost us this election weren’t the people who quietly voted for Trump in the booth. It was their friends and family who never talked to them about why he’s vile.

That’s all I have to say tonight. I’ll be back (I swear) with more stats, more call-outs (because white folks, I am calling you the hell out), more anecdotes, more information on what’s to come.

And whatever does come, just know that I love you. My Muslim friends, I love you and I will protect your right to come to this country and make it your own. My LGBTQ friends, I love you and I will make sure no one touches your right to make a family that is every bit as legitimate as the rest of ours. My undocumented friends, I love you and I will do my best to keep you here at home and on a path to making it permanent. My black friends, I love you and I will remind the world that your lives matter and are worth respecting. Facebook acquaintances, silent blog readers, Twitter followers, childhood friends who broke my heart and left me out to dry, I love you, I love you, I love you.

Rise up.

White American present at Boston, Paris, & Brussels attacks… and he’s not a suspect

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Having finally obtained a degree in Journalism & Media Studies (and having worked at multiple news outlets along the way), I can’t emphasize enough how manipulative news outlets can be in affecting our perceptions of current events.

While treading through late-night Twitter looking for commentary to retweet onto my woefully ignored feed, I came across a few tweets pointing out an insane double standard in coverage of the recent tragedy in Brussels. The tweets linked to an article entitled “Mormon Missionaries From Utah Among Belgian Bombing Survivors”. The article talks about three Mormon Elders who were injured in the attacks.

Here’s an excerpt about one of the missionaries, 19-year-old Mason Wells who is having surgery for damage to his foot, that makes it more interesting:

This was not Wells’ first brush with terror. He was in Boston to watch his mother run the marathon in 2013 when two Chechen immigrant brothers set off shrapnel-filled bombs that killed three and wounded scores more, his family said.

Wells was also in Paris this past November when the French capital was attacked by Belgium-based terrorists, the family said.

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 2.15.06 ق.د.

Mason Wells, 19-year-old American present at Boston, Paris, & Brussels attacks.

What the hell, NBC? You get a hold of a guy who was present at three recent terror attacks that completely dominated headlines, and you choose to make the story about how three missionaries were hurt?? Talk about burying the lede!

But that’s just it. This wasn’t the lede. These two paragraphs were so nonchalantly nestled in the middle of the article that it would be easy for readers to miss them. Imagine if this man was Muslim instead of Mormon, or even just of a Middle Eastern, South Asian, Eastern European, or African background.

What would be the headline then?

Speaking as a journalist, as someone who’s studied media and criticized the hell out of it, as someone who constantly consumes it, this is the kind of story that media outlets thrive on. In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, social media took to identifying suspects simply from video of the bombings (and news outlets predictably followed suit in reporting on these). These misidentifications led to multiple people fearing for their safety. Most infamous was Sunil Tripathi, an Indian-American student who had been missing for a month prior to the bombings and became a “stand out suspect” after social media users, most notably on Reddit and Twitter, posted about it. Sunil was found dead days later, and his family could have done without having to deal with these baseless accusations on top of his disappearance.

When people like Sunil and his family are subjected to the witch hunts like this, how is it that a man who was present at three different attacks is barely given notice?

I’m not saying he should be subjected to a witch hunt too (because he shouldn’t), but the difference is striking. I do see a few articles covering the story from this angle, but how is it that a major news outlet like NBC is not? A post on the front page of Imgur makes light of the situation, whereas if the man were of a non-white background, they’d be expressing suspicion instead (as with Boston). Even moving on from news outlets and social media, why isn’t any government looking into this?

I’m not being a conspiracy theorist here (although conspiracies do exist and go read a book about the CIA if you think otherwise). I assure you that, were this man not a white American, I would still say this needs to be looked into. I’m also not saying he’s definitely involved, so don’t be like the Redditors who screwed it up with the Boston bombings. I’m just saying you need to pay attention to how biased your news outlets and your governments are. And you need to demand that they change.