I’m Not OK With Being One Of The Lucky Muslims

This weekend’s immigration order doesn’t apply to me or my family; I’ll be fine. But so many others I know and love will not.

I’ve interned at a TV news show for less than a month, in between my classes at NYU, and already I’ve realized that the struggle in this country right now is not against injustice but against the normalization of it. I wonder if, in a matter of months, my colleagues will stop bursting from their offices to announce the latest travesty, will no longer share even fleeting moments of disbelief at the unprecedented. I was at work this past Friday when I learned of Trump’s travel ban against Muslim-majority countries.

I know that I will be fine.

The ban will not affect my immediate family. We are all American citizens. It will (probably) not affect my extended family, because they live in a country — Morocco — that has not made Trump’s list. But that doesn’t make this executive order’s message of hostility towards me, my family, and all Muslim people — delivered on Holocaust Remembrance Day, no less — any less personal.

I know that I will be fine.

I knew this as I cried in the bathroom at work. I called my Sudanese friend and fellow NYU student — her aunt and grandmother are stuck on the other side — and she reminded me that we did see this coming. I cleaned myself up, helped check tape for the show. We were going live in less than an hour. The main segment had been changed last-minute, so there was a little more work to be done.

I know that I will be fine.

Friday was a reminder that living in this country will always feel like a form of detainment.

I was born here, at New York Presbyterian Hospital, to Moroccan immigrants. “Going back,” for me, is a subway ride away — $2.75 for the downtown R. Going back is a return not to a place but to a time, a state of being without clear boundaries: the immediate aftermath of two towers collapsing. Friday was a reminder that living in this country will always feel like a form of detainment. I was born here, and I should know that nothing good will come of asking Muslim-Americans to drop the hyphen and choose.

I know that others in the Muslim community — my ummah — will not be fine.

They were actually detained at airports as I wrote this. They do not have the privilege of thinking about the ban in abstract terms (the dark past, the uncertain future), but must think about it in the panicky terms of now: JFK terminal, gate 5 and civil war and mom is waiting. They are Syrian refugees who’ve completed their two-year vetting process one day too late. They are alone and without footing, separated from their families and trapped between two countries. They are my friends and fellow NYU students, Iraqi sisters who might have had to disenroll, had they returned for spring semester a few days later.

Romaissaa, what does an executive order do? Are we going to be deported?

I know that I will be fine.

When I came back from my not-so-discreet work cry, my Jewish colleague told me, “We will fight this.” His hand on my shoulder; this new, unwieldy American guilt. This state-led Islamophobia, a fact.

Now that the weekend is over, now that the protest at Battery Park is over, I will go to class. My education is one of the many personal privileges afforded by the sacrifices my parents made decades ago. I will fall asleep 10 minutes into my math class, like clockwork. I will get my spinach wrap with provolone in the dining hall. I will wake up and go to work the next day.

I worry that I will be fine.

Romaissaa Benzizoune is an NYC-based writer and a college freshman. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, McSweeney's (under pseudonym R. Aicha), and The Toast.

Topics in this article

Skip to footer