Travelling as a Muslim


I’m always told a story of when I was four-years-old. I was sitting in my bedroom playing with my favourite doll, Molly.

I don’t remember how it came up, but I must have been comparing myself to the doll when my mom asked me, “Safina, you know you’re brown, right?”

I replied with a confused look followed by a, “No mom, of course I’m white, just like Molly.”

I hear that story today and laugh — I was just a kid who didn’t think she could look or appear different than her favourite doll.

But thinking back, even though I had never experienced racism and probably didn’t know what racism was, I still was, at the age of four, indirectly exposed to some sort of social norms or stigmas surrounding race and skin colour.

I’ve been lucky to live where I do. I’ve never experienced overt racism or been treated differently because of my skin colour.

As a result, I guess I’ve believed that racism, specifically against Muslims, wouldn’t affect me, no matter how public it was.

Even after the travel ban was recently instated in the United States, along with various other events that took place around us, I didn’t think that I could be affected by such racism.

Regardless, I had been following the shocking events and decisions being made in the U.S. closely.

I heard numerous stories about people being stopped at airports, being blocked from getting on their planes and even being detained simply because they identified as Muslim or came from a Muslim-majority country.

Amongst other Muslims similar to me, these events have only affected me indirectly.

It was sad to think so many people were being treated in such a way because of their backgrounds.

It was difficult to think that the same treatment could happen to me had I lived in a different country.

Still, these were only thoughts and I believed that I would never be directly impacted.

That is until this past Reading Week, when I was planning a trip into the U.S. to visit a friend after the Muslim travel ban.

Travelling into the U.S. was something I had to think carefully about.

Despite the fact that I was born in Canada and a Canadian citizen, I had to consider that, as a Muslim, I could be questioned or treated differently in a country where racism was more prevalent than I had ever been exposed to.

Though, it wasn’t the fact that my trip could be cancelled that made me mad. It was the fact that I had something to fear in general.

I was angry because I had to consider the implications of going on a vacation to visit a friend, simply because of my skin colour or my background.

In spite of all this, I decided that I wasn’t going to let the fear that those in authoritative roles in the U.S. were instilling onto those who come from Muslim backgrounds change my mind.

Although my trip ended up being fine, it was still a chance I took, to possibly be stopped and questioned at the border or face ridicule by an individual in the States.

What I’ve learned from this trip is that racism effects everyone involved, no matter how indirect it may seem to be.

Sometimes it’s easier to deny that racism impacts you, especially when it’s so public. It’s much easier to ignore the fact you could be ridiculed or treated differently because of who you are.

However, I can’t ignore the fact that I am a Muslim individual living during a time when so many are enforcing racist ideology to-wards people just like me.

Just because I have never had any experiences with direct racism does not mean I won’t ever have to prepare for it.

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