United States President Donald Trump issued an executive order on Jan. 27 that suspends citizens of certain countries from entering the U.S. until the American government can analyze any potential national security risks they may impose. Specifically, the suspension applies to countries that Congress and the Obama Administration recognized as national security risks in the Visa Waiver Program: Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, the executive order is being carried out in order to “protect Americans, and to advance the national interest.” However, because five of the aforementioned countries are Muslim-majority countries and have a constitutionally established form of Islam, the suspension of citizens from those countries could largely affect Islamic and general Middle Eastern influence on American culture— including in art.
Citizens from those countries that could potentially alter American art could be deterred from attempting to enter the United States because of the arduous and discriminatory suspension that these citizens must endure in order to do so. Consequently, Americans would be exposed to fewer Islamic or Middle Eastern artists, and any existing prejudice against them would grow. A 2009 ABC poll found that 48 percent of Americans “don’t hold a favorable opinion of Islam,” indicating an unequivocally existing stigma against Muslims and Middle Eastern people that can only develop further.
However, if there was not a suspension against those countries’ citizens, Americans could be exposed to people such as Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa, who created 2007’s “The 99,” America’s first set of Muslim superheroes. A world of racially and culturally diverse superheroes would cease to exist within the United States with the newly imposed suspension, demonstrating how art could potentially be affected in the long-term.
The ban would also affect landmark annual events that Muslim organizations organize. For instance, the ban would limit the membership of Muslim Voices, a New York City-based intercultural organization, which consists of various Muslim and Middle Eastern people. Consequently, they would be unable to carry out their podcasts, videos, discussions, art exhibits and public events that are meant to engage Muslims and non-Muslims in cultural dialogues.
Other similar organizations’ goals would additionally be restrained. The Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California’s Executive Director Ali Sheikholeslami told The New York Times that they want to showcase galleries with numerous Muslim artists in order to break through common stereotypes and demonstrate the reality of Islam. With the new executive order in place, this mission would undoubtedly be stunted.
Changes in crafts would most likely be observed as well. Islamic art is known for its handcrafted goods and symbols, such as twisted vines, flowers and crescent moons. However, with fewer Muslims within the United States, fewer artists and thus less art would exist. People like Hayward resident Khadija O’Connell would not be allowed to perpetuate the spread of Islamic art within the United States. O’Connell utilizes online tools in order to promote the handcrafted Islamic goods that she creates. She is most recognized for her pop-up crescent moon cards on crafts websites, such as Etsy.
The Academy Awards would also most definitely be affected. Iranian national Asghar Farhadi, who is nominated for a Best Foreign Language Oscar for the second time, made a statement on Jan. 29 that he will be boycotting the Oscars since his entrance into the United States is uncertain. He also stated that he is boycotting the Oscars as a public stand against Trump’s suspension.
Inevitably, suspending immigrants will have a massive effect on the number of potential artists or people who would be willing to influence American art and culture. Art is meant to provide a passion or outlet for expression that can be shared with anyone, regardless of nationality. However, with less diversity within the United States to share this art, overall acceptance for people of different nationalities may become less commonplace. This could potentially strengthen any existing prejudices against Muslims, and create an even more perilous United States.