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Opinion Let’s call Trump’s Muslim ban what it really is: A hate crime

Shaista Aziz is a freelance journalist who has worked for the BBC, Al Jazeera and The Guardian. She writes about race, gender and Islam.

We've just witnessed the first full week of a Donald Trump presidency that has set the tone for what is to come. True to form, Mr. Trump's arrival in the White House has been every bit as hateful, shameful and unconscionable, as we should've expected it to be based on his rhetoric during the election campaign.

And this is just the start.

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For those politicians and commentators who urged those of us not down with Mr. Trump's doctrine to suspend reality and "give him the benefit of the doubt" to see what he does when he's finally president, you now have your answer.

The president of the United States of America, a man endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, has fully mainstreamed Islamophobia and bigotry in his first week in the White House.

On Friday, International Holocaust Remembrance Day of all days, Mr. Trump signed an executive order banning Syrian refugees from entering the United States indefinitely - along with barring entry to people from seven Muslim majority countries for 120 days.

There are reports of passengers with ties to these countries flying into John F. Kennedy airport in New York and being told they are banned from entry.

As a journalist who happens to be a British Muslim woman, I've been following the dog whistle politics of the U.S. election campaign and now the car crash Trump presidency in much the same way I followed the Brexit build up and final outcome.

There are many parallels: Mr. Trump's victory triggered a spike in hate crime across the country, just as Brexit did across the United Kingdom. The incendiary racist language and 'othering' of British and American Muslims, the fake facts, fake news and demonizing of immigrants has created an environment where open bigotry is flourishing.

All of this has left many citizens here and across the Atlantic Ocean terrified and worried for the safety and well-being of their loved ones: It feels like our humanity is being questioned and stamped on daily, our value as human beings continues to be down graded by populist politicians and right wing media outlets.

It was behind this backdrop that British Prime Minister Theresa May became the first leader in the world invited to meet Mr. Trump at the White House. All eyes were on Ms. May as she congratulated Mr. Trump on his "stunning" victory and went on to laud the special relationship between both countries. Incidentally, as part of this special relationship, Mr. Trump was seen grabbing Ms. May's hand as they walked outside the White House.

Last year, Ms. May said she would stand up for the 'dignity' of all British citizens when asked about Trump's Muslim ban proposals. So the meeting was Ms. May's moment. This was the time to call out Mr. Trump on his Muslim ban and bigotry. She could have said: What you are doing is anti-American. She could have said: President Trump, you are guilty of hate crimes against your people. Religious freedoms, she could have said, are key to any open and free society. And targeting any person on the basis of their religion is hateful and cruel and not a policy welcome in any office.

She could have sent a clear signal to British Muslims and the rest of the population that she is serious about tackling Islamophobia and about building a truly cohesive nation.

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Instead, her shameful silence toward Mr. Trump and his shameful Muslim ban will only seek to embolden those looking to fuel division and hate.

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