College Reaches Out to Muslims

On Jan. 27. President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order banning travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East and Africa for 90 days. President Trump also banned Syrian refugees indefinitely and has suspended the entire US refugee program for 120 days.

Although some saw this as a way of prevention and a proactive way to secure the United States from different threats, some saw it as a racist decision based on religious beliefs.

Shimul Miah, a junior International Studies major who identifies as a Muslim, felt shocked and devastated when hearing the news.

“While I agree with safety and security measures, I also felt that it was dehumanizing and immoral to victimize a group of people from seven different countries who practice the same religion. However, I continued to educate myself by reading different media sources and observing different viewpoints to comprehend the reasons behind the ban,” Miah said.

Acknowledging that these are difficult and turbulent times in our city, state and nation, Richard Satterlee, Vice President for Student Life at Manhattan College, shared his stance with the student community via email.

“We need to remind ourselves that our [Lasallian] heritage calls us to treat one another with respect, dignity and civility at all times,” Satterle said.

The email resulted in fear for some because it turned out to be seen as a warning to stay vigilant towards any disruptive behavior on campus, causing some to be preoccupied.

“We have received several reports of alleged incidents of intolerance that in some cases have singled out groups or individuals on our campus based on religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, etc.,” Satterlee said.

Miah shared that he hasn’t felt attacked on campus himself.

“I have personally never faced any issues regarding expressing my faith on campus. [The] majority of the Manhattan College community has shown tremendous support and unity towards the Muslim population on campus, which I think is very important for us to feel more comfortable practicing our faith,” Miah said.

In the same unifying sense, Brother Jack Curran invited members of the Lasallian community to join forces with the Muslims on campus in order to extend the message that there’s room for everyone in the Lasallian community, regardless of their race, religious belief or ethnicity.

According to Curran, a certain number of Manhattan College community members have expressed serious pain and concern for their safety and well being, some have even had a hard time focusing and concentrating on work and studies.

“We have some fellow Jasper students who are hurting, fearful, and wondering if they belong and are welcome here! Likewise, we have faculty and staff who are suffering in their concern not only for themselves but also for their children and families,” Curran said.

His concern resulted in a well-attended event on Feb. 8. named “Town Hall: Is the Muslim Ban Important?” and hosted by the Muslim Student Association (MSA) on campus.

Miah, also the MSA secretary of Public Affairs, was not affected by the ban but remained mindful that it will have a continuous impact on Muslims around the world.

“I am worried that this ban proposal will enhance the already drastically rising Islamophobia in the United States,” Miah said.

On the other hand, the “Town Hall” event was described as an open forum and educational session regarding the current state of affairs and how it relates to the MC community.

“A question and answer session about Islam and what it is, Muslims and who they are and how we can all be more understanding and empathetic towards each other no matter the beliefs we hold,” as read in the Manhattan College activities calendar.

Apart from the MSA holding this event, Residence Life also reacted fairly quickly and started mobilizing Resident Assistants (RA) on campus by calling an all-staff urgent meeting in order to be on the lookout for disturbing behavior.

In the meeting, Dean of Students, Michael Carey, and Director of Residence Life, Andrew Weingarten, shared with the RA staff what steps MC is taking to support everybody in the community in order for them to be informed enough to be able to help assist their respective residents.

Miah believes Manhattan College handled the aftermath of the so-called “Muslim Ban” in the correct manner.

“The efforts of many faculty, staff, administration members and the student body has contributed to the sense of community and understanding we have on campus now” Miah said.

With that said, he still feels there’s a long way to go.

“I do think that our campus somewhat remains divided due to our different political views,” said Miah. “We must continue to create respectful discussions and conversations among our peers in order to create conversation and familiarize ourselves with ongoing issues and how we can cope with the challenges we are faced with.”