Aalam is both a proper name and the Arabic word for World or Universe.
I am using the word Aalam as a universal term for solidarity with all refugees and immigrants that are being targeted and turned away by various countries throughout the world during these radically extreme days of the early 21st century.
However, I’ve also chosen the name Aalam, specifically, because of what is currently happening to Muslim people in my country of birth. And because people with Arabic-sounding names are being singled out and targeted by government officials and organizations. People with brown skin and dark colored beards. People with head coverings. And even people wearing clothing that doesn’t conform to Western standards of fashion.
Imagine you are a citizen of the United States with an American passport and you are stopped by immigration officials at an airport when you arrive back home from traveling abroad. How would you feel if they looked at the name on your passport and said, “Where did you get your name from? Are you Muslim?”
This is what happened to Muhammad Ali Jr., the son of boxer Muhammad Ali, who was detained for two hours by immigration officials at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on February 7—because of his Arabic-sounding name.
It’s been almost a month since President Business signed Executive Order 13769 (a.k.a. Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States) and the darker ramifications of the order are becoming more apparent every day. It’s an order that the American Civil Liberties Union called “just a euphemism for discrimination against Muslims.”
Signed by the President on January 27, 2017, Executive Order 13769 was written with the intention to suspend admission of Syrian refugees and limit the number of refugees from other countries into the United States. But the order has also proven to serve as an excuse to detain and question anyone with an Arabic sounding name.
When President Business declared he was “establishing new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America,” he omitted the fact that there are other countries besides Syria impacted by the order—namely Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen
And, even after the Department of Homeland Security suspended all enforcement of the immigration ban—the damage was done. It seems very clear to many of us that the fight for civil rights in America is just beginning.
For historical reference, we can look at what happened after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed and civil rights were still being violated for decades after the act was passed.
So, we cannot be surprised by the refusal of some people and organizations to abide by the revocation of the immigration ban.
Also, the Orange One has vowed that he will reinstate the ban, saying “For the safety of the country, we’ll win.”
We cannot allow that to happen.
Which brings me back to the word Aalam—a name given to both boys and girls.
So, too, can we use the name to let others know that we consider ourselves to be more than just our nationality or race or gender.
I am Aalam connects us to that within ourselves that is the same as other people.
We are Aalam connects us to each other as fellow human beings in the world.