The Guardian recently published this article featuring Design Action’s very own, Sabiha Basrai.
On Monday, Donald Trump issued a statement calling for “a total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the US. To many in the United States and around the world, his were the words of pure hate: the banning of an entire religious community, stereotyped, homogenized, erased and criminalized.
Muslim Americans, who make up around 1% of the American population byconservative estimates, are feeling targeted and grossly misunderstood.
What defines a Muslim in this country? What makes a Muslim American? The answers to the question are endless. Here are eight perspectives.
Sabiha Basrai, 33, graphic designer – Oakland, California
Basrai grew up in California’s Silicon Valley, the daughter of a graphic designer and video producer who emigrated from India.
Being in an overwhelmingly white environment at the time, Basrai says the mosque played a big part in her childhood, serving a comforting, community-center role, that she and her family could not find elsewhere.
“There, I could feel confident learning to read Arabic. I could eat the food that was part of my heritage, I could celebrate festivities like Eid and Ramadan.”
Basrai remembers a painful conversation with her parents when she was just eight years old. Saddam Hussein had just invaded Kuwait. In events that were later branded the Gulf war, the United States led a coalition of countries to war against Iraq. “My parents told me to not tell anyone at school I was Muslim.”
“I cannot imagine how hard that was for my parents to sit me down and say that to me that all my best friends – all those people I who came to my birthday parties and where I went to their birthday parties – that I had to be careful and cautious of them.”
By the time she was 19 and 9/11 hit, she was a student California State Polytechnic University, a very white campus where the Republican club was quite powerful, she says.
I was put in a position of having to claim my Muslim identity as a political act.
“They [members of the Republican club] put up posters making fun of Muslims, calling for the nuclear bombing of Afghanistan, making fun of people with scarves and turbans.”
It was a formative time.
“Anyone who believes that Muslims are one evil, foreign monolithic thing, they are denying that I exist. And they should take a look at themselves, and ask themselves, why it is that they cannot see me.”