Abdullah Hassan was laid to rest on Saturday afternoon at the California Islamic Cemetery in Lodi. The 2-year-old boy suffered a degenerative brain condition and died after being taken off of life support late Friday evening.
The friends and members of the community came together to offer prayers and condolences to the family. The Janazah, which is an obligatory prayer that a community must perform to seek pardon on behalf of the deceased, was held at the Lodi California Islamic Center Mosque.
Members of the community grieved as Ali Hassan, the father of Abdullah, offered an emotional speech to all that had attended his son’s funeral.
“I am a U.S. citizen, my son is a U.S. citizen. The Muslim ban kept my wife from coming here for over a year,” Hassan said. “The ban forced me to choose between my son’s health and keeping my family together.”
Abdullah’s illness gained national media attention after his mother, Shaima Swileh, who is from Yemen, was prohibited from entering the United States due to the travel ban enforced by the Trump administration.
Seven countries were highlighted under the controversial ban for strict vetting, including Yemen, Iran, Somalia, Syria, Libya, Venezuela, and North Korea.
Swileh spent months pleading with officials at the U.S. Embassy in Egypt, where she waited while her son sought medical care in the US.
The Sacramento office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations produced a writ of mandamus on the mother’s behalf to ask the courts to force the government to decide and expedite their response to the mother’s request for a ban waiver.
Swileh was granted a visa into the country on Dec. 18 and visited her son at The University of California San Francisco Medical Center Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland, where he was receiving treatment.
“We are angry but we know our son did not die in vain. We hope through Abdullah’s struggle and passing, that the policies will change and families will be reunited,” Hassan said.
He thanked the Muslim community and The Council on American-Islamic Relations for their support, and for helping the family come together.
“It is good to see everyone come together but it breaks my heart that these are the circumstances,” said Taj Khan, president of the Lodi California Islamic Center Mosque .
Many in the local Muslim community were unaware of the impacts of the ban.
“You hear these stories on the news and the effects of it do not register until you see it for yourself,” said Muhammad Rasool, a Lodi native and a board member of the Lodi California Islamic Center Mosque.
Rasool expressed how heartbreaking Abdullah’s story is, especially due to his age.
Stockton’s Ayesha Zulfiqar, who attended the funeral, expressed anguish at the situation.
“As a mother I could not fathom being in that position. The whole thing is just so hard to grasp,” Zulfiqar stated. “My heart weeps for the mother, because she did not get to spend time with her son. Being in a hospital is not how a mother should remember her child.”
Zulfiqar, whose teenage daughter was also in attendance, expressed that the ban spotlights how divisive our country has become.
“To be honest, this is not the America that I remember or grew up with,” said Naseem Khan, director of the Lodi California Islamic Center Mosque’s Janazah Committee.
Khan recalled stories of America from his youth and how the country was seen as a land of opportunity, but also a place of civility.
“Abdullah’s case has taught us the human effect of the travel ban, and how it unfairly targets Muslims,” Khan said.
Khan said he supports a vetting process that prevents aggressors from entering the country, but he believes that the ban goes beyond that.
“As Muslims and immigrants we are an integral part of this country and Lodi’s community, and we are unjustly targeted because we are Muslim. But we are Americans, too. My kids were born here, they grew up here. This ban is about politics, not people.
“We are honored as a community to host The funeral and show our support to the family and community.”
According to Abdullah’s uncle Nabil Dahmash, his family relocated from New York to Stockton so that Dahmash’s wife Yesmeen, Hassan’s Sister, could go with Hassan to Egypt, (where Swileh was with Abdullah), so they could bring him to the U.S. where he could receive proper medical care.
“My wife was helping her brother take care of his son, and his father (Ali) was always in and out the hospital with his son. He would have to rent hotels or sleep in the hospital to be with his son,” Dahmash said.
Dahmash, who is also from Yemen, stated that Stockton’s community as a whole has been affected by the ban.
“In Djibouti, there are thousands of people waiting in line at embassies trying to get visas, and they don’t get granted visas, but they just get back in line, because they have nothing else,” Dahmash said.
For many in attendance at Abdullah’s funeral, the restrictions of the travel ban became a source of frustration.
According to civil rights attorney Saad Sweilem, who represents Abdullah’s family, Swileh had her visa application held off until the Supreme Court voted the ban into law in June before her waiver was denied.
“This case is a perfect example of how the waiver process under the travel ban is a sham,” Sweilem said.