Silence can be louder than words and words can be stronger than hate

Because the silence was deafening.  Because one third of our students are Muslims.  Because we don’t shed our American-ness when we leave the US.  Because ignoring it is just as powerful as endorsing it.

This week we both shared personal messages with our students following Trump’s immigration ban.  It is hard to explain what it feels like for the president of your country to act on his long-standing threat to ban Muslims.  But it is even harder when you are working among people who are directly and indirectly closely affected by such a ban.  We aren’t writing about the merits of such a ban or if and how it differs from Obama’s own policies. We are writing about harmful effects on real people who we work with and teach.

As we shared our feelings with our classes this week we shed tears and so did our students.  We don’t know what was behind the tears of our students, but hurt and confusion painted their faces.  We are not the only ones asking how our country could have such a small, scared, and self-preserving view of people it views as ‘other’.  Our colleagues and students are asking too.

Until now, many in the world have seen us as a beacon of hope, tolerance and inclusion.  As that light threatens to flicker out it affects so many people beyond our borders.  Those people have faces, sometimes adorned by hijabs, and they have smiles and potential and futures.

The decision made by Donald Trump last week to ban immigrants broke my heart. I want you all to know that I am sorry.  As an American, I am deeply saddened that such a man is representing me. I don’t agree with his decision or his views, and I won’t support them.

I want to specifically apologize to my muslim students. I see you. I respect you. I believe in you. Tanzania has for decades shown that people from different religious groups can live together in peace, show each other respect, and give each other space. I admire that and we in the US have much to learn from you.

Thank you for welcoming me here as your visitor and your teacher.  I’m sorry for the pain the US is causing you and others in around the world.

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