Muslim members of Berry weigh in on Trump immigration policy

by Jared Crain, Campus Carrier Deputy News Editor


Demonstrators protest at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson airport on Jan. 29 in response to the recent travel ban. Berry alumnus John Christian Evans (‘16) took this photo and later posted to Facebook: “To remain silent is to live in contrast to the teachings of Jesus.”

Trump’s new immigration policy has struck up conversation and controversy all over the nation. It has affected American and foreign-born Muslims directly and indirectly and has left many more with concerns and ideas with regard to future implications. 

Senior Kadriye Aktepe’s grandparents arrived in the United States in the 1960s, contributed to society and were active members in their community. Aktepe’s family and relatives are from Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country that was not included in the immigration order. She said that this makes her all the more empathetic.

“As a Muslim at Berry, it’s thinking about the other countries,” she said. “It doesn’t affect me directly, but coming from the same religion and same geographic area, I can only imagine what it’s like to have parents and family who can’t come for a student’s graduation or other event.”

Freshman Bonner Scholar Alina Somani’s family is from Pakistan, and while she said they are not immediately affected by the travel ban, it could become an issue if Trump spreads the ban to more countries. She also explained that the ban affects many fellow Bonner students who can no longer travel abroad to certain countries for volunteer opportunities.

“A lot of people who have wanted to do summer service abroad cannot do it anymore due to the liability of leaving and not being able to come back,” Somani said.

Nadeem Hamid, associate professor of computer science, explained that times have become awkward and difficult for Muslims in America. He finds it somewhat ironic that a nation founded on immigration has resorted to such a different outlook.

“It’s something that goes against the history of how our nation has accepted people before,” Hamid said. “This is a nation of immigrants, so it seems to go against the spirit of how this nation has emerged.”

Associate professor of psychology Julie Pynn has worked closely with refugees of war-torn African countries, particularly in the Muslim nations of  Sudan, which is included in the travel ban, and Tanzania.

Pynn explained that her work with orphan children and refugees in Tanzania has shown her that this country should serve as a model for keeping people safe, and that Americans should look beyond our borders for such models.

“In Tanzania it doesn’t really matter what your background or faith is, and the faith-based communities there work together,” Pynn said. “I think it’s a model for how multi-faith, multi-ethnic populace can work together to take in individuals from war-torn countries without prioritizing.”

Pynn argued that Trump’s prioritizing of the seven Muslim nations to be included in the ban was not only unethical, but that the data present did not factually support the decision.

In fact, Trump’s executive order cites the 9/11 terrorist attacks three times, but none of the 9/11 terrorists came from any of the seven countries that fall under the travel ban.

“The data just don’t support the included countries,” Pynn said. “That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be cautious, but the decisions also need to be data-based.”  

Many Americans resorted to rallies and protests regarding the travel ban. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, thousands of people gathered with signs at the Hartsfield-Jackson airport alone to protest the immigration order, which already led to the detention of at least 11 travelers on the Saturday after the order was issued.

Appreciative of the outpouring of support shown by countless Americans at the airports, Hamid expressed optimism and hope for the future of the immigration policy despite current struggles.

“The feeling of the Muslim community is certainly one of being worried about where things are going and being upset, but also the things we are reminding ourselves are just to keep patient and cool-headed, do what we know is right and really live and contribute as citizens in this country,” Hamid said. “It’s easy to be cynical and to worry, but my view is one of optimism.”

Hamid explained that he believes that Trump’s immigration policy has in fact brought many Americans, Muslim or otherwise, together in further recognition of the need for equality and community. 

“It’s an interesting side effect, that now there is this awareness and consciousness, and people, not just Muslims, are speaking up against (the ban),” Hamid said. “Maybe the silver lining is that it will erase this consciousness among the American public, that actually Muslims live with us, they’re our neighbors, they’re our coworkers and they’re part of our community.”

Donald Trump’s immigration order, as of last Thursday, imposes a travel ban of ninety days with minor exceptions on the citizens of seven countries, all of which are predominantly Muslim. The countries are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia. In addition, the order suspends the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days and prohibits Syrian refugees from entering the nation indefinitely.

Currently, there are two classes of individuals falling under Trump’s order. These two classes are all refugees seeking to enter the U.S. and foreign citizens of the seven countries listed. Furthermore, under the order, college students from the affected countries who travel out of the country will not be allowed to return. A projected 20,000 refugees could have been resettled in the U.S. during the 120-day suspension period. 

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