Actor Kal Penn has raised more than $500,000 for Syrian refugees with a crowdfunded campaign launched after he received a hurtful Instagram comment in the wake of President Trump’s travel ban on refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim countries.
The actor and political activist, a New Jersey native born to immigrant parents from India, over the weekend received a message from a commenter telling him that “you don’t belong in this country you [expletive] joke.” In response, Penn, who served as a guest lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania in 2008, created a Crowdrise fund-raising page to collect $2,500 for Syrian refugees.
At the time of publishing, the campaign had raised more than $550,000.
“We are better than the hateful people who tell us we don’t belong in our own country, that American can’t be a beacon of freedom and hope for refugees from around the world,” Penn wrote on the fund-raiser’s description. “We will turn their bigotry, along with the President’s, into love.”
Penn organized the fund-raiser following President Trump’s signing of an executive order on Friday that prevents refugees and immigrants from majority-Muslim countries Somalia, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, and Lybia from entering the US for 90 days, and bans refugee admission for 120 days. The move prompted massive protests over the weekend, including one at Philadelphia International Airport that brought out thousands of protesters.
This, however, is not Penn’s first time getting political. The actor, who is known for his role as Kumar in the 2004 stoner comedy Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, also previously served as the associate director of public engagement for President Barack Obama. Penn also taught “Images of Asian Americans in the Media” at Penn in 2008.
For now, though, the focus is on Trump’s travel ban and showing “some love” for immigrants and refugees.
“What a beautiful way to resist and show some love,” Penn said of his fund-raiser in an accompanying video. “Gosh, this is awesome. Love you guys.”