by ROSE BRENNAN, TAYLOR BRETHAUER & STEPHEN ZUBRYCKY
Asst. Editor, Editor & Editor-in-Chief
President Donald J. Trump capped a busy first week in office with an executive order barring entry into the United States from seven countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
The order, entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” will affect those attempting to enter the U.S. from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
The order allows the Department of Homeland Security to admit religious minorities fleeing persecution from these majority-Muslim countries, including Christians. The ban will remain in effect for 90 days, while the U.S. Refugee Admissions program will be shuttered for 120.
“Congress and the President both have a decent amount of power to set immigration policy, and it’ll be interesting to see what happens in the courts,” Assistant Professor of Government Margaret Groarke, Ph.D., said over the phone. “I think there’s some significant basis for the lawyers believing that some of what he’s doing in this order is illegal, or they wouldn’t have gotten stays from four different judges [Saturday].”
Mehnaz Afridi, Ph.D., believes Islamophobia in America has been at an all-time high since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Afridi, who spoke to the Quadrangle over the phone, is an assistant professor of religious studies, and the director of the Holocaust, Genocide and Interfaith Education Center at Manhattan College.
Afridi fears that rather than protecting Americans from radical Islamist terror, banning Muslims from entering the country may have the opposite effect.
“As a Muslim, I get news from all over the world, and this is a field day for ISIS,” she said.
Stiff backlash followed the order as protests erupted at airports across the U.S., including John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, where a number of Iraqi refugees had been detained.
Students Shahed Ahmed and Haris Ali are against the order. Ahmed is the president of the Muslim Student Association, and Ali is the vice president.
“When something so extreme happens, it’s always so surreal at first and you don’t understand it,” Ali said. “It doesn’t really get to you until it affects you personally.”
Ahmed is particularly worried that President Trump will extend the order to where some of his family is, in Bangladesh.
“I have relatives that are from Bangladesh, and they’re scared themselves because they have green cards, but now I know there has been an exception for green card holders,” Ahmed said. “But they’re still frightened and they’ve been recommended by lawyers to come as soon as possible.”
Lois Harr, assistant vice president of campus ministry and social action, believes that Trump’s order is contrary to Catholic and Lasallian values.
“Look at what Pope Francis is saying. This is not Christian. This is not what the Gospel says we should be doing,” Harr said over the phone. Harr sees helping refugees from war-torn parts of the Mid-East as a moral imperative, not a political one.
“The ramifications for us, I think, as Catholic Christians, is just – this is not the way to go. And it’s against everything that the Gospel says, it’s against the stuff that [Catholic Relief Services] is talking about,” Harr said.
“It comes off as a racist ban,” Afridi said. “If they have a really good argument that this is against terrorism, I’d love to hear it.” Although the order never explicitly used the words “Muslim” or “Islam,”, all seven of the affected countries are predominantly Muslim.
Freshman Andrew Gauzza supports the executive order.
“I know a lot of people have concerns about it being, you know, racist or anti-Muslim. I don’t see it as that way. I see it as a safety measure against possible terrorists coming into this country. I think that is a legitimate threat,” Gauzza said.
Gauzza is worried by acts of terror committed in European countries that admit refugees from the Mid-East.
“Seeing as what’s going on in Europe, in Germany and in Sweden and all of those countries that they’ve brought in a lot of refugees, and a lot of those people aren’t bad people,” Gauzza said. “[President Trump] just wants to keep our nation safe […] Banning immigration is a better way of doing it and it is more effective in that sense.”
The Muslim Student Association maintains that acts of terror are inconsistent with their beliefs.
“Islam and any mainstream religion is a religion of peace,” Ali said.
Ahmed said he has found an “extremely supportive” community on campus at Manhattan College.
Ali agreed, saying, “As a Muslim student group, we’ve never felt left out or alienated in a Lasallian Catholic [college], we’ve felt quite at home here.”
Afridi also agreed, calling Manhattan College, “one of the most welcoming colleges [she has] ever been at.”
For non-Muslims against the ban, Ali had one very simple suggestion.
“The most effective tool, as corny and antiquated as it may be, is just love,” Ali said. Ahmed and Ali are heartened by the support and public displays of support following the institution of Trump’s order.
“The American people will have spoken through these protests, and nobody’s really standing for this, even Donald Trump’s own Republican Party. A lot of the senators have spoken against him,” Ahmed said.
Ali and Ahmed believe that the conceptions of Islam as a hostile religion are unfounded, and stress that they are similar to any other students on the college’s campus.
“We eat the same cereal you do, we ride the same ‘1’ train, we suffer through the same traffic,” Ali said. “At the core, we’re all the same people living the same everyday lives, facing the same everyday struggles.”