Editor’s Note: A diverse group of 10 Kansans from across the state started discussing the topics of immigration and demographic change with The Journal, KLC’s civic issues magazine, late last year. As part of their experience, the thought partners interviewed each other in pairs about their views and experiences related to immigration. The Journal is publishing highlights from their conversations.
Inas Younis lives is Overland Park and is a writer and immigrant born in Iraq. In a conversation with Reynaldo Mesa, Garden City, she answered the following questions:
Why is the topic of immigration important to you?
The American experiment is all about the idea that people with wildly varying demographics, points of views, religions, can coexist peacefully, in a shared space, and become a community.
We’re proving something to the world. We’re proving the importance of a system bringing people together in a peaceful way. You don’t see that anywhere else on the planet. And in part, we don’t see that because the system is rigged to pit people against each other. Right? There’s no objectivity in any other system on this Earth, not in the way that the United States was able to build. The ideas of individual rights and objective law are really kind of new — new concepts, historically speaking, that we take for granted. But they are the reason that we, a diverse group of people, can live together in peace. Immigration is so much more than just who we let in, who we don’t let in. It’s a philosophical triumph of the American story.
What do you think is dividing us on this issue? Are there areas where you feel misunderstood?
There are a lot of areas I feel misunderstood. I think more because of my religious association than my ethnic because I can pass as Italian. I can pass for many different ethnicities other than a Middle Eastern woman. But when people know that I am a Muslim, then all of a sudden their first go-to misconception is: OK, then I’m oppressed in some way. That I’m being abused. There are just all the horror stories you hear about in the media. It just isn’t the case for the majority of us. Just kind of disabusing people of those misconceptions can get a little exhausting sometimes, feeling like I have to prove myself.
For many, many years, there was a narrative that would circulate in media and right-wing groups that the Muslims that are assimilated and that look just like you are the ones you really need to worry about. Not the ones whose identity is very visible and clear. Because they’re stealthily trying to integrate into the culture so they can change it from within. How do you combat that kind of nonsense? That’s been an uphill battle.
Sign up for The Journal’s kickoff event on Aug. 17 and learn more about how you can join Younis in making the conversation about immigration and demographic change in Kansas and beyond healthier.
Read more in the Summer 2023 edition of The Journal, which will be published Aug. 10.