On Jan. 20, at 12 p.m. in downtown Goshen, I had the opportunity to say a prayer for the United States of America during the inauguration of Donald Trump.
I found that my Islam faith gave me ample resources to choose from. The Quran’s main message is one that emphasizes unity and diversity. I chose a prayer that reflected what I saw before me: frightened Americans gathered in unity on a chilly January morning, supporting me!
This experience touched me very much because I was reassured that the America that I moved to two years ago, the America that takes pride in diversity, still exists. I was overwhelmed by joy when I saw the amount of support from the people who came together to choose love over hate and division. When I was talking, I felt powerful again, knowing that my words were not going unheard and that this country’s people were not after me or any of my personal choices.
I am visibly Muslim; I wear a head covering called the hijab, which I choose to wear with pride. Nobody in the crowd gave me a hard time for expressing my freedom of attire or belief. I felt that if this force of love and acceptance was rushing through the heart of the people and that the shouting love was not silenced, then I was safe.
After Trump was elected, racism and misogyny started becoming more visible and vocalized. I am still shocked that even with the evident progressivism in this country, there are still people who want to impose their opinions and beliefs on me. I am one who respects everyone’s opinion, but when it directly conflicts with the rights of someone else, then we might have a problem.
That being said, what I saw in the prayer gathering showed me why and how this country became great. I felt that the people around me are what keep this country from falling into the pits of the dark ages again.
During the speech, I made sure that people knew that I was cut from a different tapestry. I expressed that I like hummus over sausage, that I prefer lamb over beef and that I believe mansaf is the best dish in the world.
Mansaf is the national dish of Jordan, which is made from lamb cooked in a sauce of fermented dried yogurt and served with rice.
But I also made a point to explain that we are the same too; I have dreams and ambitions just like them, I have people I care for and people who care for me. I am also fighting for American freedom not to be stripped away.
After I stepped down from the podium, there was a flood of people who shared kind words of encouragement and love with me. It was a bittersweet moment, one that I will cherish for a long time.
It was bitter, because we were standing together against ideas that represented hate and xenophobia, and it hurt me that there were some people who still believed in those ideas. But it was also sweet because of all the loving and welcoming people I got to meet.
I was unaware before going that I would learn a significant lesson that day; I learned how Americans have reserved their rights, and I was reassured of the future of the U.S.
My message for the gathering was “to believe.” I left downtown Goshen that day with more belief and more believers. I’m glad that the community gave an “amen” to my message and chose to accept it. I was blessed to be where I was that day.
But today, my feelings have changed. There is a new executive order that has come out; your president has put an immigration ban on seven Islamic countries. One of them is my home. I still feel loved, but not as hopeful as I was before. My heart is now torn between two different countries. As of now, wherever I go is home; wherever I sleep, study and talk with friends is home.
I am praying for myself and my people who are in the same or even worse situations than I am in. I am praying for the Americans who may be able to change reality. I am praying that peace will have its shadow on the U.S. government and the U.S. people.
After I came to the U.S., I learned how to love the U.S. people without considering the government all the time. I want this love to grow more and more into beautiful relationships. Just in case I won’t be able to be here next year, I want you to know that Goshen has always made me feel safe and welcome. Thank you all.