Colorado Rapids Player Mohammed Saeid On Being Muslim in Trump's America
"I'm getting stopped more in the airports. But it's not too bad. I'm kind of used to it. I'm always happy, I'm always smiling, and I think that's the way to deal with life in general."
© Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
This week, the Trump administration moved forward with a travel ban against most visitors from six predominantly Muslim countries after the Supreme Court allowed parts of the ban to take effect. In addition to disproportionately affecting Muslims seeking entry into the United States, the ban at least temporarily halts the arrival of refugees from around the world.
Both prongs of the travel ban hit Colorado Rapids midfielder Mohammed Saeid hard. He is both an observant Muslim and the child of two Eritrean refugees who fled to Sweden before he was born.
When I spoke to him last week, the Supreme Court had not yet ruled on this issue. Saeid was still observing Ramadan, a time for reflection for Muslims around the world. He repeatedly emphasized that he hates to dwell on negativity, particularly during this sacred time.
"Mo is a man of faith and as a club we support him 100 percent," club spokesman Ryan Madden told VICE Sports. "I think anyone who follows soccer knows that the community as a whole is made up of people from all walks of life, and whether it be religious belief, gender, ethnicity, socio-economic circumstance, political affiliation, or sexual orientation, it's a privilege for us to unite and support each other as one club."
I spoke to Saeid about what Ramadan means to him and if being a Muslim in the United States today has changed his mindset as he reflects on his faith. This interview was edited slightly for clarity.
What were you taught as a kid about the meaning and purpose of Ramadan?
When I was younger, I was taught Ramadan is really about being thankful for what you have. It's easy for us as humans to sometimes forget where we come from, what we have. There are some people who don't even have the food that we have, the clothes that we have, a bed to sleep on. So it's more about, you know, being thankful and remembering that people out there have a worse life than what you have and try to help them as much as possible.
Has that meaning changed at all for you as you've gotten older and lived in different places?
It hasn't changed, but I've become more thankful. When you're younger, you kind of understand it, but not to the level as to what you are when you're older. You have more purpose about your life as you grow up, you learn more about life, yourself, and for me it's just about staying grounded, staying even more thankful I think.
Obviously there's a lot of ignorance in this country about Islam, especially from very important people. Does being exposed to this kind of ignorance on a regular basis from prominent figures make you feel like you have to be more outspoken about your religion to educate people?
First of all, I'm a very open person. I'm open to engage with any conversation because it's something that you have to talk about in order to understand. I don't think the solution is to shut up and just live your life. Also, it doesn't mean that you have to be outspoken in that manner, but everything is with actions. The way you act, people look at you and see how you act and they start asking questions, hopefully you have the right answer at the time.
In your day-to-day life, do you think you're getting more questions from people about your religion?
Definitely. Maybe not people around me, but strangers I'd say, if they know who you are, they would have a few questions about your faith, about everything to do with your faith. I'm happy to answer every question, really, because for me, that they're asking a question tells me that they care enough to want to learn, to want to understand something. The people close to me already know who I am, what I am, how I am as a person. But sometimes strangers come up and they know you and they want to know about your faith and I'm happy to answer them.
You've been living in the US for a few years now. Have you experienced any differences in what it's like to observe Ramadan or be a practicing Muslim in the US versus Sweden or the UK (editor's note: Saeid played academy soccer in the UK for several years in his teens)?
I'm getting stopped more in the airports. But it's not too bad. I'm kind of used to it. I'm always happy, I'm always smiling, and I think that's the way to deal with life in general. You can't be grumpy. You're losing too much in life if you look at things the wrong way or the negative way. There's too much positive in this world to be looking at the negative.
Obviously, over the last year, a lot of attention has been given to Trump's views towards Muslims. What has it been like for you during this time? Did you try and pay attention or avoid it?
Of course you pay attention to it. You want to know what's going on in the world. You want to know what people are thinking about certain issues. To be honest, I was in Columbus at the time (editor's note: Saied played on the Columbus Crew before he was traded this offseason to Colorado) and there were a lot of people, neighbors and stuff, who supported me. But sometimes, in order for us as people to learn, we have to fall down, you understand? To get back up. And I'm not saying Trump is a very bad guy or very good guy. We all make mistakes, you understand, just like he makes mistakes. You never know, maybe he will turn one day. My way of looking at life is looking at the positive instead of the negatives, and I'm sure there's a lot of positives in him as a person and maybe in a few years he'll look back and he'll regret whatever he said, because I'm sure a lot of us have said a lot of bad things. But, you know, sometimes we learn from them and become better people. I hope he's like that too.
With Ramadan ending, has this year led to you reflecting on anything different than years past?
This year has definitely been different. I've had a lot of people that I know that have passed away, even during this month especially. For me, you know, life is very short. Days go very fast, we get older, you just have to make use of your time in the best way possible, try to be an example for as many people as possible, and try to be happy. Don't let anyone try and take the happiness away from you and I think that's what mostly came into my mind during this month to understand what the purpose of life is, to love the people close to you, and to not waste time with the negatives.