I am an American Muslim, and like thousands of American-Muslim families, my family has been in America for over 10 generations. I am also one of tens of thousands of American-Muslim military veterans. I served honorably in the U.S. Navy, earning two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement medals while deployed abroad. Like other service members, I swore to uphold our Constitution.
It is in defense of our Constitution and its promise of religious freedom that I joined several other American-Muslim citizens in suing President Donald Trump within days after he issued his first Muslim-ban executive order in January 2017 because it is unconstitutional and discriminatory. Our lawsuit, as are the many others filed against the Muslim bans, is about religious freedom for all.
Trump’s Muslim bans are clearly intended to exclude Muslims from the United States. Indeed, the underlying message of the third Muslim ban is the same as that of the original Muslim ban: that Muslims are somehow less American than people of other faiths.
However, as one of millions of African-American Muslims whose ancestors were brought to our shores centuries ago, I know this is based not only in malice and hatred but also in ignorance of basic American history.
There has never been an America without Islam and Muslims. Islam is rooted in America from its earliest beginnings. Muslims are indigenous to the American story. American Muslims have helped build our nation and have been part of America since before it was a nation.
Up to 30 percent of enslaved Africans brought to these shores during the transatlantic slave trade were Muslim—banned from practicing Islam by slave masters. Today, millions of American Muslims are descendants of those brought here in bondage centuries ago.
Despite this, mainstream news and entertainment media have, for years, falsely portrayed American Muslims as outsiders despite Islam’s and Muslims’ history in America. Now Trump has tried to exploit this misrepresentation and to further that false idea when promoting his Muslim bans.
This week, the Supreme Court turned a blind eye to the Trump administration’s blatant bigotry. This decision green-lights religious and ethnic discrimination that runs counter to the inclusionary principles that our country aspires to.
Rather than reinforce the notion that America welcomes people regardless of where they were born, what they look like or how they pray, the Supreme Court instead upheld a ban, driven by anti-Muslim sentiment.
The Supreme Court has been wrong on major decisions before, and the Roberts court has joined that sad legacy.
In the case of Dred Scott, the court ruled in favor of slavery, and in the case of Korematsu, the court permitted the incarceration of thousands of Americans and their families and children based on their Japanese ancestry.
In the Muslim-ban case, Trump v. Hawaii, Trump set out to ban Muslim families, and the highest level of our judiciary just allowed it to happen, empowering this president and future administrations to discriminate on the basis of religion.
This week’s decision attacks Muslim communities and opens the door to government- and court-sanctioned discrimination of other ethnic and religious groups.
The Muslim bans aren’t just about denying visas to people from certain Muslim-majority countries. They also take away the constitutional rights of American citizens, including those whose ancestors have been in America for centuries.
With his words and actions, the president has sent the message to American Muslims that they are less favored by the federal government than Americans of other faiths. This is a clear violation of the U.S. Constitution’s establishment clause.
The bigoted message sent by the president has also caused American families and children who are Muslim, as well as those perceived as Muslim, to become targets of increased hate attacks and discrimination.
Our Constitution begins with the principle of freedom of religion, which, as a nation, we continue to strive to make this foundational principle into reality. No one should fear for their safety because of the color of their skin or how they pray. Since we have no authority to dictate to people how they should pray, we cannot ban people based on their religion. Smearing an entire group of people based on how they worship God is fundamentally wrong.
We will continue to fight for Muslim families and communities, to pursue legal avenues on behalf of impacted people and to demand that legislators take action to end the Muslim ban.
Most importantly, we will continue organizing, mobilizing and defending Muslim communities from bigoted policies—whether or not they are endorsed by the Supreme Court.
I am asking fair-minded Americans of all faiths to join this fight for our shared values by writing emails to editors of local newspapers telling stories about your Muslim neighbors and to call your own state’s members of U.S. House to co-sponsor H.R. 4271, by Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), and your own state’s members of the U.S. Senate to co-sponsor S. 1979, by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), to block the implementation of the Muslim ban.
Born in Detroit and raised in Central Virginia, Dawud Walid is an imam and executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI). He is co-author of the book Centering Black Narrative: Black Muslim Nobles Among the Early Pious Muslims.