I’ve just returned to my home in London from a trip to New York. As a Muslim, it’s safe to say it was a very interesting week in my life.
I arrived in New York just days after Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States, and was there on the day he announced his very controversial and globally criticised immigration ban for people from seven Muslim-majority countries.
For those that don’t know, I should immediately point out that New York City is a traditionally Democrat voting state. And even though Trump is a native citizen of New York City, he only received around 15% of the votes from the city-dwellers.
New York inspired me like it always does: A successful high-level meeting with my multi-national clients who were welcoming, kind, and gracious in all our interactions.
Likewise, I dined at a few top restaurants and shopped in the fashionable Soho, and was treated with the utmost hospitality and enthusiasm.
I paid everywhere by credit card and my Muslim-looking skin colour and name never caused a flutter. In fact, people went out of their way to ensure I was comfortable and made to feel welcome.
But there was one experience which stood out: Every single person I met in New York was vehemently and actively outraged by the actions of Trump in the past few days. The newspapers and local TV shows commented continual criticism, taxi drivers and shop workers were talking of plans to defeat him. And I joined 30,000 protesters who demonstrated in the freezing cold streets and in front of airports.
I had tears in my eyes at the Battery Park demonstration where I witnessed a vast majority of white non-Muslims passionately argue that their fellow Muslim citizens and new incoming refugees be accorded the same rights that they have.
Let’s not forget that the people of New York were victims of the horrific terror attack on September 11, 2001, by people from the Muslim faith. And yet, 15 years later, those same people are demonstrating against Trump’s Muslim ban.
In fact, my only sadness from attending this event was the low number of resident Muslims who attended. I understand the low turnout is due to fear, but this must be overcome, and American Muslims can’t expect others to do all their bidding for them.
I salute the wonderful people of New York. They proved to me that Americans can be the greatest people on the planet. I was completely inspired by them and hope they unite a worldwide movement which will quickly win this battle ahead.
Toffael Rashid is a global marketing professional.