A protest took place in downtown St. Louis this past Saturday in response to President Donald Trump’s recent executive order on immigration, commonly referred to as the “Muslim ban,” and other anti-immigration and anti-refugee acceptance policies.
The first in a series of events, a march from Union Station to the Thomas F. Eagleton U.S. Federal Courthouse, was organized by Sydwell Davin, a photographer in the greater St. Louis area. Once the group of marching protesters reached the Courthouse, they united with a larger crowd participating in a rally organized by the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Missouri chapter. Following the rally, the group of over 800 protesters and activists marched to the Gateway Arch.
Missouri leaders have called on Sens. McCaskill and Blunt to reject Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court. Neil Gorsuch poses a unique threat to women’s equality and has made clear that he’ll put the interests of the wealthy and powerful above the rights of ordinary Americans. He would also endanger the civil rights and voting rights of Missourians.
Faizan Syed, Council on American-Islam Relations, CAIR-St. Louis:
“We depend on the Court to uphold constitutional values, and for that to happen we need independent justices who won’t just rubber stamp everything that Donald Trump does. After the actions of this past week that defied the American principle of religious liberty, it’s more important than ever that we have an independent Court. But we’ve seen Judge Gorsuch repeatedly put his own extreme ideology over the Constitution, and that’s why Senators must oppose Gorsuch’s nomination to our nation’s highest Court.”
Last week, President Donald Trump signed a series of executive orders that sent the lives of many into chaos — in St. Louis and across the world.
On Friday, an executive order, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” halted immigration from seven countries (Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen) for 90 days and refugee admissions for 120 days. Syrian refugees, however, are barred from entry into the United States until further notice.
This became all the more clear after speaking with Faizan Syed, the executive director of the Council on American and Islamic Relations in St. Louis (CAIR-STL). He commented on how organizations like CAIR play a role in creating this change and presence. Primarily focused on defending American Muslims who are victims of discrimination, CAIR also leads various initiatives that work to form a culture of civic engagement within the Muslim community. Their Ambassador Project, for instance, works to build relationships between American Muslims and their local elected officials.
All this work is important, because as Muslims, its important that people view me and us not as Donald Trump’s potential terrorists or as just another means of ensuring national security— as Hillary Clinton suggested when she called Muslims our “eyes and ears” for combatting terrorism. Like any other American teen, I go to class, I binge watch Broad City, I take too many BuzzFeed quizzes when I should be studying. I also happen to be Muslim. Organizations like CAIR drive that message home as they combat Islamophobia and increase visibility of Muslims within our community.
However, despite all of these engagement and education efforts, Syed thinks there’s a deeper reason the Muslim community is stopping short of full civic engagement at its fullest potential. “The greatest barrier towards Muslim voter participation is apathy and a belief that their vote does not count,” he says. “A belief that no matter who you vote for, things won’t change.” This apathy is seen by comparing levels of civic engagement. According to a Pew study, only 62 percent of Muslims who are U.S. citizens were certain that they were registered to vote; the national average was 74 percent. Changing this pattern is essential, since despite accounting for only 1 percent of the total U.S. population, Muslims were considered a swing demographic in many states. In Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia put together, Muslims accounted for nearly one million votes. Because of this vital importance, huge efforts were made to get out the vote and combat the pre-existing apathy.