Holly Yasui: Reflections on “No Muslim Ban Ever” Mobilization

Video of the rally linked here and below.


By Holly Yasui

I was invited by Deepa Iyer of The Center for Social Inclusion to speak at the “No Muslim Ban Ever” rally in Washington DC on October 18, the date it was scheduled to go into effect. It turns out that at the 11th hour, two federal judges – both Asian American! – stayed the latest version of the ban, as a continuation of the two previous versions which were also struck down by the federal District and Circuit Courts. That was an encouraging development in the case that the U.S. Supreme Court avoided by cancelling the hearing that had been scheduled for October, but the government is appealing the lower courts’ rulings so it is sure to come before the high court again in coming months.

I was uplifted and inspired by the No Muslim Ban event, mostly by the incredibly beautiful, outspoken young Muslim women, whose families came from Syria, Yemen, Libya and Somalia –

LEFT PHOTO: On stage with Isra Chaker, 26-year old Syrian American, Campaign Advisor for the Refugee Campaign at Oxfam America, who spoke compellingly about her organization and her family in Syria.

RIGHT PHOTO: With Deepa Iyer, one of the organizers of the No Muslim Ban mobilization, and Karen Kai, coram nobis attorney who flew into Washington DC from San Francisco to participate in the rally.

…  and the organizers, who were also women, Deepa Iyer, Linda Sarsour, and Avideh Moussavian … and delighted to be accompanied by my friend and colleague Karen Kai, from the team of coram nobis attorneys who re-opened the wartime Japanese American cases in 1983; and Laura Li of 18MillionRising who took care of us; and very pleased by the presence of National JACL in the person of the new Executive Director, David Inoue, accompanied by two yonsei women – or gosei? (fourth- or fifth generation? Japanese Americans) …. I was grateful that they, along with 18MR and Asian Americans Advancing Justice corroborated my statement, that the Japanese American community stands in solidarity with the Muslim community because we see the parallels between the JA internment during WWII and the Muslim ban today; we know from our own history the pain and injustice of being singled out and punished solely on the basis of race, religion, or national origin.

I also saw and heard other allies standing up in solidarity with our Muslim sisters and brothers, speaking up and speaking out – a fiery Jewish rabbi; a bold and fearless undocumented Dreamer; an African American civil rights attorney; a radical European American woman who was an organizer of the Women’s March that greeted the new administration on January 21 of this year. And in the audience, there were all age and all colors, including a group of elderly Code Pink activists in pink Statue of Liberty togas, crowns and carrying cracking pink cellophane torches; the rowdy members of the Yemini Merchants Association and their supporters who arrived in DC by bus from New York City; an immigrant rights group from Detroit; representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union, Oxfam, moveon.org faith-based organizations including the Jewish organization Bend the Arc and American Friends (Quakers), and more … What a beautifully diverse coalition unified by a transcendent commitment to social justice.

photo: Les Talusan

When we say Stop Repeating History, I now believe we CAN, now that I’ve seen Muslim activists and their allies in action … because a huge and most important difference I see between 1942 and 2017 is this outpouring of solidarity. When Japanese families were uprooted and imprisoned in American concentration camps, there was no organized opposition … except for the American Friends Service Committee, which helped college students to transfer to schools outside of the West Coast exclusion zones from which all Japanese Americans were banned. During World War II, there were individuals who sympathized, who tried to help their neighbors and friends in small, personal ways they could, but in many cases, those people were vilified as “Jap-lovers” and run out of town.

And in 1942 the federal courts for the most part deferred to the government’s false claims of military necessity and did not apply the Supreme Court’s own standard of strict scrutiny to the clearly racist intentions behind the Japanese American internment. Today, seventy-five years later, the District Court of Hawaii and the 4th Circuit Court in Maryland, are not deferring to the current government’s claims of “national security.” Instead, they are questioning the President’s intentions and evidence in the Homeland Security report, which allegedly justifies banning immigrants from 6 majority-Muslim countries from entering our country.

So, to see the support from such diverse groups as represented at the No Muslim Ban Ever rally and in the lower federal courts, is a non-parallel that makes me think that this time around we are, perhaps learning from history and may not be condemned to repeating it but instead advancing toward building a more just and peaceful world.

Post-film discussion with Zainab Chaundry,of  the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Rethink Media; and Jehan Hakim, grassroots organizer with Asian Americans Advancing Justice – San Francisco.

I’d like to end this blog with a statement sent to me for the No Muslim Ban rally by Jay Hirabayashi, son of Gordon Hirabayashi who also purposely challenged the discriminatory policies of the U.S. government during World War II. Jay, who is an extraordinarily wise and spiritually centered person writes:

Currently, President Trump wants to restrict persons, largely from nations populated with a Muslim majority, from entering the United States. He wants to discriminate based on nationality and religion and not on actual evidence. He wants to repeat what President Roosevelt did to Japanese Americans during World War II. In fact, however, more Americans have been killed in the past nine months by white American male terrorists who have no connection “radical Islamic terrorists.” Would it not make more sense to impose a curfew or mass-intern all white American males that have guns? Of course not. You cannot reasonably assume that all white American males are likely to commit terrorist acts just because a handful in the past 8 months have killed 63 people and injured more than 500 …

I do think that it does, however, make more sense to ban guns instead of Muslims!

So what does the future hold for us? The U.S. Supreme Court is certainly going to be a major hurdle, given that it allowed parts of the second version of the ban to be implemented this summer, but it is clear that the people and organizations opposing the ban will not back down!

We say: Stop Repeating History!
We say: No Muslim Ban EVER!