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Point of View: Congress needs to pass NO BAN Act

Noel Jacobs
Noel Jacobs

In 1995, I lived in Oklahoma City near downtown and I worked at a local hospital. When the Murrah Building and the lives of 168 children, women and men were destroyed by an act of terror, I remember the murmurings that turned into bold accusations that Muslim terrorists either living locally or from the Middle East were suspected. I watched as anti-Muslim rhetoric begat violence, spreading nationally and becoming all too common. Members of the local Muslim community, some born here, some born in other parts of the world, gave blood, helped victims, donated money, and were eager to help our hurting community in any way they could because they too were a part of our community. And although we soon discovered that no Muslim was responsible for that act of terror, permanent damage was done Muslim Americans in Oklahoma and across the country, and even today, the discrimination continues.

Although we have a long way to go, Oklahoma and her people have made great progress toward ensuring a more just community for all. We have seen understanding grow and opportunities abound to learn about and connect with people from different cultural and faith backgrounds. Personally, as vice president of The Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma, I have had the pleasure of forging deep and lasting friendships with people whose cultures and beliefs vary greatly from mine, yet in whose beliefs I find the very core of my own: the equality and dignity of all humanity, selfless love and dedication to the “Golden Rule.” My own freedom is diminished if the freedom of my neighbor is diminished.

When Americans cannot visit the countries of origin of their families simply because they are Muslim or the countries to which they go are majority Muslim, or family member cannot receive a relative from outside the United States simply due to where they will travel from, it ultimately is a denial of true religious liberty. When we let unfounded fears drive our policies we lose the very vision of our country, founded on the principles of openness and religious liberty. We reject our identity as a country that, at least in theory, is a beacon of hope, freedom and equality for all.

The U.S. House of Representatives is considering the National Origin-Based Antidiscrimination for Nonimmigrants Act (NO BAN Act), and will vote soon on this historic and, I believe, deeply American legislation. It will reverse Islamophobic and discriminatory travel bans that have been rectified out of an unfounded fear of the other.

I hope for our sake — the sake of our state, our nation and our world — that Congress will approve the NO BAN Act. I also hope that my fellow Oklahomans will be moved to write or call their congressional representatives to tell them that racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia have no home here. As a member of The Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma, I stand with people in my community and around the world who seek the safety, freedom and opportunity that our country offers.

Jacobs is the vice president of the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma.