By Sohaila Abdulali
On a recent return to New York after a short trip to India, I waltzed through immigration with my nice blue US passport. It says “Abdulali”, but nobody seemed to care. Will that be different next time I come back home?
The incoming administration has previously proposed a Muslim registry. I’m not from one of the so-called “high-risk countries”, but the name Abdulali suddenly feels like Hester Prynne’s scarlet letter – am I now supposed to justify myself every time I come home? Will I feel the old familiar pre-citizenship nerves and do my best to grovel and look harmless when the officer appraises me before I escape thankfully to baggage claim? What about my Pakistani cousins who might want to visit?
This feeling of nervousness is unpleasantly familiar. In 1992, India suddenly changed after a mosque was destroyed, and ethnic riots swept the country. The nice man I bought flowers from at the Delhi market near my flat asked me in all seriousness why I didn’t go “back” to Pakistan – a place that might not even have let me in as a tourist while I had an Indian passport. I was indignant, and then heartbroken. At least there was comfort in the thought that this could never happen in the US, my adopted home.
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