Banned Together: Travel Ban Won't Stop Chicago Rapper | WBEZ
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Banned Together: Libyan-American Rapper Worried Travel Ban Could Affect World Tour

Chicago-based rapper Khaled M said he is preparing to release new music for the first time in since 2013, the same year U.S. immigration authorities detained him in Detroit as he returned home from a trip to Toronto. 

The Libyan-American musician, whose real name is Khaled M. Ahmed, said now that he is getting his career back on track, he worries about being detained once again. He said his concerns about traveling have intensified because of President Donald Trump’s executive order banning immigrants and refugees from seven mostly-Muslim countries. 

Khaled M was born in Arizona, meaning the order would not affect him, but he said he fears that could change. 

“It seems like the law is in a very malleable space right now,” said Khaled M, who is planning an international tour for this summer. “I don’t know what to expect. I am very aware of the possibility that I won’t be allowed back into the country.”

The order also faces an uncertain future. A federal judge blocked the ban last week, and a federal appeals court heard arguments Tuesday over whether the ban is constitutional. A ruling is expected later this week.

He said the fear isn’t new to his family. The rapper said his father was jailed in Libya for opposing the regime of former Prime Minister of Libya Muammar Gaddafi. 

“My father (was) tortured and put in jail,” he said. “Most of my family back home was either jailed or killed.”

In 2011, Khaled M released the song “Can’t Take Our Freedom” about the then-current Libyan Civil War. The song was featured on CNN and has more than 75,000 views on YouTube.

After being detained in 2013, Khaled said he got off social media and decided not to release any new music.

But the rapper said Trump’s travel ban has re-energized him.

“The one thing that I do know is that as an artist I have a platform, and I’ve created an audience,” he said. “So worst case scenario, something bad happens. But I am able to shed light on it.”

Editor’s note: WBEZ spoke with Chicago-area residents from each of the seven countries named in President Donald Trump’s travel ban. They spoke about how the uncertainty is affecting their businesses, careers and students. Find all of their stories here.

Miles Bryan is a producer and reporter at WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter at @miles__bryan.

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