Nearly 40 years ago, my father, a Muslim immigrant from India, came to Oklahoma in hopes of starting a better life. He became a prominent cardiologist in Oklahoma City. Like so many Oklahomans, he was a religious man and cherished America’s commitment to religious liberty and diversity. He founded Oklahoma City’s first mosque, which continues to be a vital spiritual and community space. These values of service, faith and love of country are the greatest gifts my father handed down to me and my brothers.
In January, under the pretext of safety, President Trump signed an executive order temporarily stopping all refugees from coming to the United States and suspending immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. Following the ban, I can only think of my father and whether he would have been able to come to the United States. Would he be welcomed in Oklahoma today? And when our president and some of our state leaders talk about Islam, are they talking about me and my brothers — one of whom serves our nation’s heroes as the chief of neurosurgery at the Veterans Administration hospital in Oklahoma City?
I understand the fear in our country around terrorism — it is as scary to me as it is to anyone — however this ban will not make us safer. No immigrant or refugee from any of the banned countries has killed in an act of terror on U.S. soil since 1975. Our country already uses extreme vetting in immigration practices, but we must use nondiscriminatory practices that allow us to maintain our core values of religious liberty, inclusion and compassion.
I’m writing as a fellow Oklahoman to ask that you consider the Muslims in our community as part of the very fabric that makes our state great.
Read all the recent editorials from The Oklahoman.
Consider Aniq Rahman, the son of science educators from Bangladesh who have lived in Norman for more than 35 years. Aniq is the president of Moat, an analytics firm used by Fortune 500 companies and was recognized by Forbes in their “30 Under 30” lists for 2017. Enes Kanter of the Oklahoma City Thunder is a Muslim from Switzerland of Turkish descent. Our state’s principal organ transplant center, the Nazih Zuhdi Transplant Institute, is named after the recently deceased surgeon who was a Muslim from Lebanon.
Countless Muslim immigrants throughout Oklahoma give back to our state through medicine, research, engineering law and business — and they come from countries all over the world. It is only good fortune and luck that separates so many of us — Muslim or not, immigrant or not — from being a refugee from Syria, looking for the same kindness from our country, and the same opportunities that many before have benefited from.
I encourage readers, regardless of whether you agree with me, to reach out to me or any Muslim and have a conversation. We all need to spend time with one another discussing how we can ensure America remains an open, secure and compassionate place that honors the religious liberty that is foundational to our country.
Shakir is a Harvard University medical student, Rhodes scholar and P.D. Soros fellow who plans to return to Oklahoma following his medical training. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.