Students Discuss Muslim Ban at Open Discussion

By DARA MCGUINNESS
On February 8, 2017

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore, Wikipedia

President Trump fulfilled one of his campaign promises by issuing an executive order halting the entry of citizens from certain Muslim majority countries on Jan. 27. This order also put an immediate freeze on the U.S.’s refugee system.

Ramapo College’s Muslim Student Association held an open discussion last week to discuss the impact of the ban and Trump’s administration on Ramapo's campus. The discussion was open to all students and professors, and moderated by Muslim Student Association President Rand Abdulraziq.

Abdulraziq began the open discussion by asking how the group feels about the current political administration.

“Most republicans said during the election that the ban wasn’t going to happen,” said sophomore Kaoutar Bahaj. “But two weeks in and he has signed so many of these orders, and the ban has happened.”

Abdulraziq then asked the group if they were seeing any changes in the political environment.

“Well, I’ve certainly seen support since the ban began,” said freshman Asma Abeer.

“Definitely,” agreed freshman Movniar El Samralar. El Samralar described attending a protest in Battery Park to express her anger over Trump’s ban, saying, “When I got there, I was surprised to see Muslims were the minority. Right now, we see thousands of non-Muslims protesting.”

Kaoutar Bahaj, sophomore, said that for the first time she is seeing the Muslim community embracing the right to publicly demonstrate. “For the first-time Muslims are unafraid to protest in the airport. Trump is spreading hate but you see people out there.”

Abeer agreed, saying that in the past people were scared protesting might make them a target for discrimination.

“Fear of being in the press made a lot of Muslims hesitant to demonstrate,” said Abeer.

Students then emphasized the importance of non-Muslims making themselves allies. Other than protesting, students discussed the other ways they could help.

“Education is very important,” asserted Adam Ayyad, sophomore. “We all have to challenge the stereotypes in the media. We need to break through that barrier and keep an interfaith dialogue going.”

“You have to be vocal,” said Tuba Farooqui. “Let people know they have your support.”

Other students agreed with Farooqui. Megan Kearney, Coordinator for Commuter Affairs, added, “It comes down to white privilege. I’m Irish American. I can use that platform for other people and pipe up when I hear something wrong.”

Professor Michael Riff of Holocaust and Genocide Studies proposed that the area we live in appears to be tolerant on the surface. He wondered if anyone had heard differently.

Many in attendance certainly had.

“After Trump won, a woman I know was told to take off her headscarf in the supermarket,” El Samralar cited. “This was in New Jersey.”

“Outside of college, I work with youth at an Islamic center in Passaic,” said Ayyad. “Young kids ask if they should worry about their moms. I don’t think 12-year-olds should have this problem. It’s shocking that this is happening in America of all places.”

Discussion participants cited numerous examples of intolerance in public areas. Headscarves and language often mark someone.

“It’s not just islamophobia, but xenophobia,” said freshman Eman Al-Yousefi.

Yousefi relayed a story about her sister translating for a woman who did not speak English in a Walmart. Another person approached them and told the woman that in America people speak in English.

Abdulraziq concluded the meeting by thanking everyone for coming and participating, adding, “Especially now, it is important to always show up.”

dmcguinn@ramapo.edu

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