PEORIA, Ill, (WMBD) – One of President Joe Biden’s early executive orders is inspiring hope for those in the Muslim community.
The new president struck down former President Donald Trump’s travel ban from certain Muslim-majority countries to the United States last week. Trump imposed the ban in Jan. 2017 citing it was a national security concern.
Imam Mazhar Mahmood, Director of Religious Affairs for the Islamic Foundation of Peoria, said the ban also affected those who had no ties to hatred.
“I do understand that the ban took place because of certain concerns that were there,” Mahmood said. “But most definitely those concerns, they enveloped even innocent people who had nothing to do with hatred or terrorism or any such negativity.”
Mahmood, who was born in Canada, said he has a religious visa to work in the United States. However, he said his wife and children couldn’t join him in Peoria because his wife is Syrian.
He said he had an easy way out by having his family, who were Syrians, become Canadian citizens and visit him in the U.S. But he said many others didn’t have the same chance.
“They were at times divided from their families,” Mahmood said. “At times it was new couples, a wife away from husband just because she has another citizenship. Other times it was son disunited from father.”
Countries originally on the travel ban included Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and Sudan.
Mahmood said he hopes the reversal can reunite loved-ones that may still be separated.
“Once it was reversed, I can tell you that many of the hearts that were disunited because of this ban that came into place, they now had the ability to rejoin in peace after many years,” Mahmood said.
He also said the damage done when society is prejudiced against minority groups ‘breaks the hearts’ and separates individuals who are ‘innocent by nature.’
“The only advice that I would have as a religious leader is that we promote unity and just try to have a conversation with individuals who you presume to be “the unknown,” Mahmood said. “Just a conversation over coffee makes all the difference.”