Just before recent Friday prayers, women in bright hijabs chatted quietly at the Islamic Association of Greater Hartford, known colloquially as the Berlin Mosque. At the front of the women’s prayer area, a mother of triplets who is an interpreter for Syrian refugees chatted with a friend. Nearby was a young woman heading to California to study screenwriting. A little girl waved to a friend.
Then came the sermon — an exhortation — first in Arabic and then in English.
The services ended, and the Muslims walked out into the least hospitable environment imaginable. Last month, in a 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Donald Trump’s ban on immigrants coming to the U.S. from several predominantly Muslim countries. The ban was expected, as an extension of Trump’s historic animosity against Islam. This was King Birther, who spread the (false) rumor that Barack Obama was a Kenyan Muslim. During his campaign, Trump suggested Syrian refugees were part of a secret terrorist army (Sept. 30, 2015, at a New Hampshire rally). He said he’d consider closing mosques (Oct. 21, 2015, on Fox), and he said he’d consider creating a Muslim database (Nov. 20, 2015, on NBC News).
Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a blistering dissent that compared the decision to Korematsu v. United States, which affirmed the government’s decision to put Japanese-Americans into internment camps during World War II. Couple this decision with the U.S. government’s inhumane treatment of babies, toddlers, children and teens of people seeking to come over our southern border, and you have a country exploring an immensely ugly terrain.
Let’s think about this on a practical level: Imagine going to Hartford Hospital in need of a cardiac catherization. It’s a common procedure, performed roughly 1 million times a year, according to U.S. National Cardiovascular Data Registry.
Now imagine that every Muslim on the hospital staff has been spirited away, kind of like “A Day Without a Mexican,” the 2004 mockumentary from Mexican artist Sergio Arau. In that movie, Mexicans are, well, raptured away from California. Confusion ensues, and the economy tanks.
Only this time, imagine we lose our Muslims.
Good luck to you at the hospital. Muslims make up a large part of Hartford’s cardiology department. Perhaps you can go across town to St. Francis Hospital — except there are at least three Muslims on staff there, says Dr. Reza Mansoor, Hartford Hospital cardiologist, founding president of Muslim Coalition of Connecticut, and author of “Stigmatized! From 9/11 to Trump and Beyond: An American Muslim Journey.” Without those Muslim physicians, life would be very different for heart patients.
Perhaps your procedure can wait.
In general, if we remove Muslims from Connecticut, the medical community would be greatly reduced, including cardiologists and hospitalists, those physicians who focus on the general care of hospitalized patients. According to Mansoor, that field is heavy on immigrants, too, who take the stressful jobs native-born Americans don’t want.
Think, too, about small businesses. Have you pumped gas lately? That gas station just might be owned by a Muslim. And let’s face it, small businesses run the economy. Say goodbye to your accountant, your teachers, your nurses and your engineers, as well. Muslims are everywhere.
If we stretch back far enough, we’d also have to say goodbye to at a significant portion of our economy, as estimates are that 10 percent to 15 percent of the slaves brought to this country were Muslims, and our economy is based on slavery. (If you haven’t read Edward E. Baptist’s “The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism,” do it and do it now.)
Think about all the hours the members of the Muslim Coalition have logged at area homeless shelters. Gone. Perhaps someone else will volunteer in their place. Nonprofits need volunteers.
Also those hours logged by members of the Muslim Coalition of Connecticut at Habitat for Humanity? Someone else will need to pick up a hammer. The same goes for the money the Muslims have collected to fight hunger, and the clothes, towels and toiletries they donated for the National Day of Service.
Without Muslims, the rest of us are really going to have to step up.
Susan Campbell teaches at the University of New Haven. She is the author of “Dating Jesus: Fundamentalism, Feminism and the American Girl” and “Tempest-Tossed: The Spirit of Isabella Beecher Hooker.” Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.