U.S.-born Muslim, repeatedly singled out and searched
I recently had to file an appeal with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to prove that I am not a threat to my fellow Americans. I am told these appeals often go unresolved and that I may not be able to do anything about the way I am perceived by my government.
I am an American Muslim, born and raised in Southeastern Michigan. I’m a master’s candidate at Tufts University, and hope to affect change in our nation’s food policy. In the past two weeks, I have been stopped five times for what I am told are random selections.
As I approach the Transportation Safety Administration podium with my boarding pass, I watch smiles turn into serious expressions as agents see the bold “SSSS” on the top and bottom of my boarding pass. The abbreviation stands for Secondary Security Screening Selection.
I am told to step to the side as a supervisor is called and my ID is taken away from me. I am taken through security with an agent, and on the other side watch my belongings ripped apart as I am frisked top to bottom, over and under my clothing. My laptop, cellphone, and Kindle are all turned on and sit open at the disposal of the agent’s prying eyes.
Today, I felt more devalued than ever as I watched my epi pen, a medical device for allergic reactions, get confiscated. All I could do was plead with the agents and try my best to convince them of the medical necessity. I guess I was lucky to have this potentially life-saving tool returned.
With ongoing hateful rhetoric from the likes of Donald Trump against Muslims and Middle-Easterners, I see the situation getting worse. I feel as though I am standing 30,000 feet above this situation, watching our country regress to racist and bigoted behaviors.
As a private tutor of U.S. history, I see too many parallels with what I and many other American Muslims are facing today, and the discrimination of Jewish immigrants fleeing from Hitler in the 1930s, Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor and African-Americans in the 1960s.
As we mark the 74th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, and more than 80 years since Hitler rose to power, I feel Americans need to revisit the collective memories of our past in order to prevent us from a divided future.
As a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, the oldest Muslim community in the United States, I cite our peaceful motto: Love for All, Hatred for None.
While my interactions with the TSA at the very least could remain respectful, I have felt talked down to and racially profiled each time agents tore apart my suitcase and asked me probing questions. As I reflect on the way this made me feel I know two things. First, I am an American and am loyal to my country. Second, neither I nor any other peace-loving American deserves to feel this way, regardless of race or religion. I call on my fellow Americans to remain peaceful in these tough times, and hope for a more tolerant future.
Deeana Ijaz is from Ann Arbor.