politics

Yassmin Abdel-Magied responds to Trump's 'Muslim ban': "It breaks my heart."

Yassmin Abdel-Magied won’t be attending the conference she was booked to speak at the in United States next month.

In fact, she’s not sure when she’ll be returning to the country that once welcomed her as a guest of the State Department.

Yassmin Abdel-Magied is one of more than a million people currently blocked from visiting the United States. Source: Facebook

The well-known Australian activist, author and TV presenter is one of 134 million people blocked by President Donald Trump's controversial "Muslim ban", which was forced through by executive order on Friday afternoon.

The ban stops citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries – Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Yemen – from entering America for at least 90 days, even if they now live elsewhere and enjoy dual-citizenship, like Yassmin. Syrian refugees are excluded indefinitely.

"From an emotional point of view it’s obviously quite distressing," the 25-year-old told Mamamia.

"We’re talking about a policy, instituted over a weekend, that limits my opportunities to travel and work and do things in the US, but it’s a lot more symbolic.

"The ironic thing, of course, is that no one from those countries has committed a fatal terrorist attack."

And she's right. As the New York Times reported, no terrorist attack has been committed on US soil by anyone who's emigrated from any country on the banned list for 15 years.

"I feel like I’m being punished for being born into that country," Yassmin, who was born in Khartoom, Sudan, and is a proud Muslim, said.

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"It breaks my heart to know there are young kids growing up in this society.

A woman protesting the ban in New York City. Source: Getty

"A country like America that claims to be the bastion of freedom and liberty and all that stuff, and yet that doesn’t extend that to me now? They think that because of where I was born I am a risk to them?"

On Saturday, the ban sparked mass protests across the US, as a Federal Court judge managed to push through protections for a small portion of those affected, already in transit.

It's been panned internationally by British, German, French and Canadian leaders – among many others – but not by the Australian Government.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop actually vowed to work closely with the Trump administration to implement "strong border policies".

Yassmin labelled Bishop's comments "truly terrifying", and pointed to our own widely condemned offshore processing centres for asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus island as proof.

"The difference between me and the people in offshore processing is a few years of arrival and I am a very proud Australian and I do as much as I can for the county and it's OK because people know who I am and know my story," the former Queensland Young Australian of the Year said.

"What these policies do is they make certain people 'the other', it completely dehumanises them.

yassmin abdel-magied abc
“It breaks my heart to know there are young kids growing up in this society.” Source: Facebook
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"And when you dehumanise people, almost anything can be justified and that’s what’s really scaring me."

Yassmin, who also founded not-for-profit Youth Without Borders, believes it's "not OK" for our leaders to ignore such blatantly bigoted attacks:

"These kind of thing should be challenged," she said.

"We need to move beyond being shocked to a place where we think strategically: how do we stop ourselves repeating history?

"This sort of behaviour, language and environment that is being – has been – created is only going to lead us down a really dark path if we don’t do anything about it."

And yet, many in the Muslim community, both here and in America, are frightened to speak out, including her own family, Yassmin said.

Labor leader Bill Shorten rebuked the ban in no uncertain terms:

ANd hence, the onus falls on those who are not scared or directly affected by ban to have the uncomfortable conversations, break down stereotypes and stand up in solidarity with those who are.

"Even if we can have an impact in the circles around us that’s hugely powerful," she said.

"Just reaching out to members of the community through social media, or even in your local areas if there are people that you know affected, just reach out and say, 'Hey, how are you doing how can I help?'

"It’s a scary time and it’s very easy to feel alone and feel like nobody cares. That’s the sort of stuff that everyday people can do."

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