Letter to the Editor

MEHNAZ AFRIDI, Ph.D., writes:

Dear Editor,

The announcement of the new Trump administration of the Muslim ban, building a wall between the US and Mexico, the deportation of undocumented workers and students turned into some of the largest demonstrations in the country at college campuses. As the director of the Holocaust, Genocide and Interfaith Education Center (HGI), I was contacted by an Alumni (who wants to remain anonymous) about the violence on the Berkeley campus on February 6th 2017, media and magazines such as The Rolling Stones created headlines such as: “Berkeley Riots: How Free Speech Debate Launched Violent Campus Showdown” and many campuses nation-wide wondered what campus was next?  Last semester, Manhattan College students gathered and built a steel fence on campus to protest the initiative by President Trump even before the elections.  This semester, Muslim Students Association and HGI held an open town hall meeting entitled; “Is the Muslim ban Important?” attracting students who voted for and against Trump. HGI is also sponsoring an event with the local clergy who will have an evening of food, conversation, music and solidarity on April 25th at 6:30pm to invite all students and members of the community to express their opinions about these political and social concerns. Faculty members on campus have attempted to include voices on all sides of the political spectrum in the hope of inclusion and not exclusion. As I was contacted by alumni a few weeks ago, amidst the confusion and rumors of politics on and off campus, they asked to see me because they wanted to create a way for students at Manhattan College to create a peaceful and productive way of expressing their opinions on the “Immigrant” laws and issues.  They were concerned that students were not being heard and that violence on campus and hostility was the solution to their beloved alma mater. These particular alumni are deeply committed to education, the United States and the HGI Center.  They have also sponsored a fellowship to support work educating students about Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism.  The alumni are both Catholic with deep ethnic and religious connections to their faith and culture.  As a Manhattan College faculty, I am so proud to serve this college and the alumni that express support for the “other” in peaceful and educational ways.  The alumni decided to hold an essay contest that would address these questions under the broad umbrella of ‘Immigration’.  The essay contest runs through to May 5th 2017, urging students to answer; “In discussing present day immigration issues, what are your concerns?” The alumni were also very clear that the essay should maintain our Lasallian Tradition in mind, addressing the following two of the following; human Rights, constitutional rights, economic policy, national security, setting quotas and any personal concern that you may have.  The alumni were very generous in offering $1,000 for the first prize and $500.00 for the second prize.  As the director of HGI, I have invited five faculty members across all schools and one of the alumnus and their friend to evaluate the essays.  I am grateful to be part of such a long-standing Lasallian community at Manhattan College as a Muslim woman who teaches both Islam and the Holocaust.  As we enter Passover and Easter, as a Muslim who embraces Jesus and Moses as the most beloved prophets, I am reminded of their messages of welcoming the ‘other’ and being grateful for those who like the alumni create ways for us to create peace through education and understanding at times of confusion. Please send me your essays (guidelines are posted on announcements) to me: mehnaz.afridi@manhattan.edu