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Here's What British Somalis Have To Say About Trump's Muslim Ban

Locals from the Somali community in Shepherd's Bush told BuzzFeed News the US president's order would perpetuate extremism.

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Nestled along Uxbridge Road in Shepherd's Bush, west London – past the jobcentre, the nail bar, the market, and a couple of Arab grocery stores – is Savannah, a Somali restaurant where Abdi, 25, is waiting for customers.

It's not yet lunchtime, but it's been a long and anxious weekend for many people among Muslim communities such as the Somali diaspora who have been waiting to hear how dual citizens from a country included in Donald Trump's "Muslim ban" will be affected. Many have friends and family in the US.

"It's not fair," Abdi says. "He's [Trump] a racist guy," he adds, talking behind the restaurant counter. "The refugees – they feel like no one likes them. They're not the same. They look at them differently.

"For me, I don't want to go to America. Now there's Donald Trump, they look at us differently. They look at the Somali passport. It's not fair."

He's not alone in feeling worried – the day before, four-time British Olympic champion Mo Farah, who has lived in America for the last six years, said in a statement: "President Donald Trump seems to have made me an alien."

The ban was introduced by an executive order signed by Trump last week that brought in a 90-day bar on entry to the US for nationals from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen, leading to chaos in US airports throughout the weekend, and temporarily suspended the entire US refugee program.

Further down the road, a group of young campaigners are talking at a community centre about how Trump's immigration crackdown will affect their friends and families. Mohamed Ali, 32, tells BuzzFeed News he no longer wants to travel to the US.

"I wouldn't want to go," he says. "Simple reason is you've got an unpredictable man who believes in torture, he is in power now, and there have been mistakes made in the past before. 'Mohamed Ali' is a very common name – and I could be picked up, put in an American god-knows-where black site, and tortured, for all I know.

"It's this whole perception and to me America is no longer a place to be. And I would advise the Foreign Office actually to update their status on America, that America is a no-go area for Muslim people at the moment. I genuinely would not feel safe there."

He adds: "The sad thing is we've already started to witness the impact of his words – a mosque was burgled and burnt down in Texas, Dallas. My mum's brother lives there and I was speaking to him yesterday and and they were extremely concerned.

"In Canada yesterday people were murdered in the mosque, [and] here in the UK … Brexit has sort of given people a confidence to be racist. People are saying vile things out there [about] people of minority backgrounds.

"It's a really troubling time to be in the West as a Muslim person who has a different skin pigmentation to the everyday European."

Hodan Hussein says she's worried for her family in the US: "I've got family there, my husband's family there … I'm more fearful for the people living there, to be honest. I mean we're not going through it in the UK, at the moment, but that could change – obviously the relationship between the UK and the US has been quite solid so far.

"They're meant to be a nation of immigrants and right now they are kind of contradicting all of their beliefs and morals and everything they have stood for thus far."

Although her friends call themselves Somali in the UK, she says, in the US her family feel American first, and were brought up singing the national anthem every day in schools, though now, America's government is "essentially attacking them".

Abdirachid Fidow, 27, said Trump's policies will backfire. “His refugee ban is the perfect recruiting tool for ISIS. It can be used as an excuse for violence and hatred by extremists to spread their poisonous and toxic ideas to young people."

He said: “There are a lot of young Somalis who are already confused, struggling with their identity. Is he Muslim first or Somali or American or British, or his clan, or African or black? Which one comes first and which one last? For example, a young Somali boy who has never been to Somalia or Africa, but he's been constantly told that he’s Muslim, then Somali, then his clan X or clan Y that his parents told him then British or American."

He went on: "Now, imagine that young person who lives in America or here in the UK that he is no longer having the same rights as his white counterpart based on his faith or country of origin. Now a lot of Muslims felt living as a Muslim in America is not safe and many young people perceived that America is no longer their country and they don’t belong there.

“But now [extremists and fundamentalists] have actual evidence that they can use to win the propaganda war and gain hearts and minds of innocent young Muslims [to say,] ‘This is not the United States you thought it was, and it is not your country, therefore. Come and join us, let’s fight against them.'"

Bishara, 31, from southwest London, described the fears she had after the EU referendum. "I remember when Brexit happened and I would call my mum every day on her break at work, just to call her when she was travelling on public transport, I was a bit worried for her.

"I know my sister can take care of herself and I can take care of myself. But just for her, she doesn't wear the jilbaab [a long outer gown], just the headscarf, but there was a deep concern and worry in my heart.

"I saw a lot of people come out to protest and felt that, OK, the world's not that bad – [it] kind of highlighted there's people out there who still believe in humanity. Because there [were] a lot of people at JFK. With Donald Trump I just laugh at the whole thing. Even though it's really bad and serious, but I just see it as a joke. As a joke."

Not everyone agreed. Noole Dhalad, a poet in his forties, showed BuzzFeed News his recent Facebook status (above), adding: "Maybe not everyone will like what [Trump] says, but he's an elected president.

"It makes the whole world shocked, but he said he will deal with immigration in the election campaign. That's what he told us."

"With the last administration we went to war with each other," Dhalad says, referring to the US airstrikes and Special Operations Troops in Somalia fighting al-Qaeda and its al-Shabaab allies under Barack Obama's presidency. According to a report by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, almost 300 people in Somalia were killed in US airstrikes in 2016 alone. "We were happy and excited and fully supporting those wars," Dhaled says.

"Everybody got a home but we're killing each other. Got to deal with it no matter how painful. Even here the economy is going down. But these are policies, it's nothing personal."

Between 1975 and 2015, foreign nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen killed exactly zero Americans on US soil, according to an analysis of terror attacks by the Cato Institute.

The Anti-Tribalism Movement – a nonprofit organisation with members in London, Mogadishu, and Minneapolis – said in a statement to BuzzFeed News that it "strongly" condemns Trump's executive order, "which we regard as an extremely dangerous and divisive stance".

It added: "Many Somali Americans travel around the globe as entrepreneurs and business owners and this new executive order WILL put their lives in jeopardy.

"We believe the inroads made and hard work done by the Obama administration to bring communities together and counter divisive ideologies such as Daesh and the Far Rights groups could be ended by this decision. ...

"We call upon and urge the Trump administration to not put lives in danger but help bring people together by tackling issues of world importance."

UPDATE

This post has been updated with further information from Abdirachid Fidow.


Aisha Gani is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Aisha Gani at aisha.gani@buzzfeed.com.

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