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Free screening encourages unity

Inspired by prejudice and fear mongering, the executive order implemented by President Donald Trump restricting immigration skirts a wafer thin line of discrimination on the basis of religion. Accomplished doctors, teachers and engineers, to name a few, among other ordinary people, have been denied the basic right to enter the U.S. due to one sole similarity: Their Muslim faith. With little justification for this order, Trump has opened Pandora’s box: Unleashing a destructive wave of discord  across America.

For the first time in my life, I felt that this piece of legislation directly targeted me and people I love. My family is of Iranian descent, with my grandparents and aunt becoming U.S. citizens in recent years. Although they live in the U.S., they do not feel American. Iran is their home, and a significant part of my life and identity as well. To hear that people from my country are no longer welcome in a place that I call home is a shocking and frightening realization. My grandparents are smart, accomplished people, yet to Trump and others supporting this bill their achievements are belittled by their nationality.

My struggle to comprehend the ban caused me to lose a lot of faith in what I used to consider my home country. I struggled with the implications behind this order for days. Yet through the ugliness that encapsulated this piece of legislation I found a sliver of comfort in the retaliation and resistance against Trump’s message that swept the U.K. and U.S.. I was proud when many high school teachers spoke out against the sentiments, and I was even more proud when London took a stance against his act as well.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is organizing a free screening of the Iranian Oscar-nominated film, The Salesman On February 26, in Trafalgar Square. Up to 100,000 people are expected to be in attendance. When the travel ban was initially implemented, the director Asghar Farhadi, who is Iranian, would not have be able to attend the award ceremony in which his own movie was nominated.

Farhadi is not new to the big screen. In 2012, he won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, A Separation, in 2012. It was a night of excitement, triumph and pride for Iran. Yet, the upcoming Academy Awards will not feature the same sentiments and most notably, Farhadi will not be in attendance.

Farhadi has announced he is refusing to attend the awards as a statement of pride for his country. He will not tolerate Trump’s anti-Iranian message and the feeling of exclusion and prejudice currently present in the U.S., and therefore is boycotting the event. Farhadi is taking a stand for his country. And by screening his movie for free on the night of the Academy Awards, Khan and the city of London are making a statement also.

London is a diverse city, which is something I have come to appreciate while living here. We can stand together regardless of our differing beliefs. In times of division and uncertainty around the world I am proud that my city can stand for values greater than the prevalent xenophobia in the U.S..

Thousands are invited to join together and watch this movie at no costs. London is sending a message of unity and diversity with this movie screening. Coming together as a city to watch an Iranian movie, we are celebrating the talent and accomplishments of art, regardless on the ethnicity of the actors and director. To show the The Salesmen is a small act, but the message it is sending is much larger. In this city, we are not divided and we can all come together.

Everyone is welcome on February 26, and I encourage you to join.

Written by Lead Features Editor Michaela Towfighi

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