by LAUREN SCHUSTER & STEPHEN ZUBRYCKY, Social Media Editor & Senior Writer
The Manhattan College Muslim Student Association (MSA) hosted Afaf Nasher, executive director of CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations) New York, on Wednesday, Feb. 6 for a discussion on President Donald J. Trump’s “Muslim ban.”
“We’re hosting this as sort of a … what do we do from here? Where do we go from here? What steps can we take? But also how is this drastically affecting people’s lives,” said Rabea Ali, a junior who is president of the Muslim Student Association.
Trump first signed a travel ban barring entry from several Muslim-majority countries on Jan. 27, 2017, the eighth day of his presidency. The current executive order was signed on Sept. 24, 2017, and bars entry from Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen. The order, colloquially called “Muslim Ban 3.0,” was upheld by the Supreme Court in 5-4 decision on June 26, 2018.
“Last summer when the Supreme Court ruled the Muslim ban was constitutional, that completely changed people’s lives, separated families, essentially said that… ‘yeah, what Donald Trump is doing is fine. It’s fine that we’re separating families and destroying people’s lives,” Ali said. “That was not something good to have to deal with.”
Nasher believes that even though the current iteration of the order includes two non-Muslim-majority countries – North Korea and Venezuela – that the ban is still unfairly targeting Muslims.
“How many North Koreans come into the United States?” Nasher asked. “They’re not allowed to come in. You get maybe 40 or 50 people a year who are permitted to come by the North Korean government, so there’s that. How about Venezuela? Venezuela, we don’t like their leadership, and by ‘we,’ we mean the United States, but having said that, it’s not that Venezuelan citizens can’t come in, it’s that certain levels of politicians can’t come in.”
Nasher sees the inclusion of these two countries as nothing more than an attempt to make the ban appear less discriminatory.
“Once you sort of get to see that you’re like ‘alright then who are the remaining countries?’ Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen,” Nasher said. “All Muslim dominant, and they’re all facing difficulties, all those citizens, from coming in. So that means no being united with your family, no studying in the United States, no medical treatment, visiting, tourism, business, all of that has basically been suspended.”
Nasher’s main hope in the face of all of this is that young people like those on MC’s campus will be energized to take political action, even in small ways.
“Please be proactive,” Nasher said. “It’s the simplest of all things you can do, to take two minutes out to call your local elected. That’s the very minimum that we can do if we want to change things.”
The event also briefly touched on the intersection between the Muslim community and Black History Month. Nasher pointed out that many people who are Muslim are also black, which automatically connects the two communities’ struggles with discrimination. Beyond this, Nasher views the African American community’s efforts to end unjust segregation laws and other forms of discrimination against them to be a model for working towards achieving justice for any marginalized group, especially those who have discrimination against them written into the law.
“What’s happening to the Muslim community is not isolated,” Nasher said. “It’s happened to other communities before, and the struggle continues primarily in the African American community, which has been facing this for so long, but in other communities as well.”
Fatoumata Saho, secretary of the MSA, agreed with the importance of looking at the way other communities have also dealt with discrimination throughout history and how those stories have been told.
“I think the most important thing about this event is that most of the times our history books and what we are taught in school is never in depth,” Saho said. “We are always told the surface reason of why certain things happened, but we’re never told the deep reasons, and who exactly it did affect. For example, this Muslim Ban, you hear from the news ‘oh, it affects this and this country.’ This event helped me understand it’s not just countries, there are literally every single day living people that are affected by it and every single moment of their life.”
Saho hopes that looking at things from this perspective will encourage people to be more critical of the way that media can spin discrimination.
“There’s no limit to learn,” Saho said. “Every single day you have to go out and search for information because you can’t just sit and wait for information to be given to you, because most of the time they’re never going to be complete, or they’re never going to be right.”