In December 2015, Donald Trump, the nominee of the Republican Party for President of the United States in 2016 made a tendentious statement after US citizen Rizwan Farook and his Pakistani wife Tashfeen Malik murdered 14 people in San Bernardino on December 2, 2015. He said that he will do the “Total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” if he were elected as president.
At that time, I thought that Trump’s nomination for President of the United States was only a joke from Republicans. Come on, how come that a real estate tycoon (that became reality show star, later) without no military and government experience, could be the next president of USA?
Furthermore, at his presidential campaign, Trump also made some controversial statements and promises, from prosecuting Hillary Clinton (his election rival), building a wall along the border between (United States of) America and Mexico, lifting coal production limit, to banning the muslims entering America.
Yes, muslims, like me, you, and the halal kebab seller in New York.
Unfortunately, Republicans were not joking, so were the Americans who voted for Trump at the election. On November 8, 2016, The Republican Party nominee, businessman Donald Trump from New York, and his running mate, Governor Mike Pence of Indiana, defeated the Democratic Party nominee, former Secretary of State and former Senator Hillary Clinton from New York, and her running mate, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia.
With that result, Donald Trump along with his slogan “Make America Great Again” was elected to be the next President of The USA, and expected to take office as the 45th President on January 20, 2017. Yes, it was not a joke.
DONALD TRUMP WILL BE THE NEXT PRESIDENT OF USA.
So, how about his promises? Specifically, how about muslims’ chance to enter America? Does it mean that America will not be a “Liberty Country” anymore?
When I told my friends that I will go to America in September 2014, I got many responses from them. Some of them said that going to America will not be easy because I have Islamic name, some of them told me that they are afraid of my safety because of the criminality rate there, but the good part was, many of them supported me to go there and they also introduced me to Indonesians who live in America.
“I have friend in Boston.” “You can contact my friend in New York.” “You can stay in my cousin’s house in Chicago.” were few of some supporting responses. Chill out guys, because, first, I had to deal with the American visa.
Getting the American visa for Indonesian people was quite tricky, because we have to pay the visa fee first, before dealing with the long queue at the embassy. And yes, you can not ask your money back, if your visa is rejected.
I was little bit nervous when I got my turn to give the visa documents to the immigration officer. Finally after queuing for three hours, I was here, at the American Embassy.
“So, what’s your name?” An officer that looks like Matt Damon greeted me from his desk.
“My name is.. Aa..arif, Sir.” I was stuttering.
“And, why do you want to go to America?” He looked deeply into my eyes, without love desire, to be exact.
I bowed, before looking at him with shy, “I won blog competition.”
That was just the beginning; my story in America will start soon after Matt Damon gave me a letter to take my visa in four working days.
They said that going to America will not be easy if you have Islamic name or come from Islamic country, especially after the 9/11 tragedy. Yes, I know that Indonesia is not literally an Islamic country, but we have the largest number of muslim citizens among all countries in the world. The good ones and the Santoso ones.
I was arriving at JFK airport, queuing in the immigration line, before an officer took and examined my green passport, the Indonesian passport.
“Mr. Muhammad Arif Rahman?”
“Follow me.” She put my passport into a green transparent plastic folder, and escorted me to a small room in the corner of arrival hall. A small room full of police officers in blue uniform.
Days before I went to America were an exciting ones. I always love making itinerary −searching accommodations, planning daily activities, booking transportation mode, etc., and I want my itinerary to be as perfect as Dian Sastrowardoyo.
“In New York, you can meet my friend Tenny.” Nuri, my friend, told me. “If she is not busy, maybe she can walk you around New York.”
“Oh, really? That will be nice.”
Shortly, Nuri introduced me to Tenny, using social media.
On the other day, I met my other friend, Nindya. I was looking for her help, arranging my trip in New York, since she was there before. She helped me picking the most suitable room on airbnb, following to my budget.
“So, what is your plan after New York?”
“Probably going to Washington DC, Peoria to attend the main event, then going back to Indonesia from Chicago.”
“Yes, Chicago.” She looked like thinking about something, “Why?”
“Uhm, actually, I have cousin in Chicago.”
” … And?”
“You can stay in my cousin’s house in Chicago.”
For more than two hours, I was stranded inside a small room in the corner of arrival hall JFK airport. Inside, while many police officers −that remind me of NYPD serial− go back and forth in front of me. At a time, they handcuffed two Chinese people, out of the room, and the other time, they called people who have Islamic names.
Islamic name, like Muhammad Arif Rahman. Me.
One hour later, I was called to answer some questions from the police in front of me. The opening movie of My Name is Khan, suddenly appeared on my mind, the scene when Khan get interrogated when entering America.
“So, what makes you come to America?”
“I won a blog competition.” I gave him the invitation letter from my bag “From Caterpillar.”
“Hmm ..” He typed some data on his computer, before handing me my passport again.
“Welcome to America.”
With help from Nuri, I met Tenny in New York. She was holding an umbrella with her boyfriend, Ali, when I met her under Manhattan Bridge. It was raining cats and dogs that night but they were so kind, “No worries.” Said Tenny, before accompanying me to take some photographs around New York, taking me for a dinner, and also escorting me to the famous Times Square area.
The other days, I met Sepsha, another friend that I was acquainted in Komodo Island. She was on duty from Radio of Republic Indonesia, to cover the news from America. Then, she joined my trip to Washington DC, and became a good travel mate for days.
When I was in Chicago for my last days in America, Kiki (Nindya’s cousin) picked me up with her husband, Ivan and her two children. They let me stay at their beautiful house, took me for a city tour, and made me Indonesian food. It was little bit odd, when I was thousand miles away from Indonesia, but I have a delicious “Nasi Goreng” for breakfast.
Thank God, I met these people who helped me to get a feel of America, to survive America, and the most important thing, to make me feel at home.
After the election day, Trump made some adjustments to his promises, including the promise that was related to muslims’ live. Trump initially promised to ban all Muslims entering the US, but switched to “extreme vetting” after he became the party’s presidential candidate.
Now, Trump has replaced the policy with one suspending visas “to any place where adequate screening cannot occur, until proven and effective vetting mechanisms can be put into place”. Probably it is a slow progress, but still, slow progress is a progress as well.
In the future, I hope you can make America great again, without disrespecting other races, nationalities, and religions. Because, all lives, matter.
Dear Mr. Trump,
Just in case you are asking, my name is Muhammad Arif Rahman, I am a traveler, and I am not a terrorist.
PS: I hope I can survive America again.