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Homecoming feels a little less welcoming

Rummana Hussain and husband Mick Dumke at Gullfoss Waterfall in Iceland. | Facebook Photo

The pilot gave the customary “welcome to Chicago” greeting over the intercom when our plane touched down at O’Hare Airport Tuesday afternoon.

But when my husband and I turned on our cellphones after a trip overseas, I felt anything but welcome.

At first, I was confused by a text from a childhood friend.

“Muslim ban Mubarak,” she sarcastically wrote, using the Arabic word reserved for happy occasions.

Seconds later — as we taxied toward our gate — my husband, eyeing his news alerts, informed me about the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision upholding the travel ban from several mostly Muslim-majority countries.

I half joked that I wished we could fly back to Dublin, where under a picture of a smiling Donald Trump, we breezed through U.S. immigration and customs.

OPINION

I made it out of O’Hare and got home, of course, but not without a sinking feeling of defeat that I felt when reading the headlines about children being detained and separated from their parents the few times we had spotty WiFi overseas.

My ethnic roots are not anchored in any of the countries listed in the ban, but the Supreme Court sanctioned discrimination against those who share my faith is a blow to me and the larger Muslim community.

“Wow!” Trump tweeted when he learned the highest court in the land upheld his travel ban.

I guess I’m not as surprised.

The dehumanization of Muslims started decades ago and the 9/11 terrorist attacks served as a catalyst, further legitimizing Islamophobia.

It’s no wonder that the policies and ill treatment of Muslims has snowballed into an Administration that is more brazen in its disdain against those who follow Islam — and for that matter, many others who don’t fit the bill of who makes the country “great” these days.

Rummana Hussain | Rich Hein/Sun-Times
Rummana Hussain, assistant metro editor. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

When I was a child, I would proudly tell my Indian immigrant parents that I was an American.

They’d laugh and tell me that I should wake up and realize that many others who saw my brown skin didn’t think I was one of them.

In a way, I knew they were right.

My siblings, peers and I were among the few South Asians in our different North Side or north suburban schools as we came of age in the 1970s and 1980s.

At family gatherings, we’d compare racial slurs hurled at us: camel jockey, sand n——, “Gandhi.”

At the time, our “otherness” was solely based on our darker skin and most of the verbal attacks were confined to the playground and classroom halls.

The game plan has now changed a bit.

The bullies are now targeting us for our religion and they have come off the swing sets and into political office.

Just a few years ago, many Americans would rightfully laugh and criticize former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his Holocaust denials and comments about Christianity and Judaism.

To much of the world and many people in country, our president doesn’t sound any less hateful.

There are days when the vilification of those groups I belong to (and other groups I don’t belong too) break my heart.

I am still a proud American, but I don’t hold my head up as high as I did when I made that claim as a little girl.

The best part of traveling is coming back to your bed and family and friends.

And this time, it was no different.

But I would be lying if I didn’t say it was harder to come back to the place I call home this time.

Rummana Hussain is an assistant metro editor at the Sun-Times