Hamburg– On Friday, January 27, President Trump signed an executive order, temporarily banning people from seven Muslim – majority countries, while also issuing a temporary indefinite ban for people from Syria.
Mneerah Alkahil, a graduate student from St. Bonaventure expressed her thoughts about the ban and was able to provide some historical context, “this ban did not happen overnight, but it is an accumulation of years of anti-Muslim sentiments.” Mneerah, herself, is a dual citizen of the United States and Saudi Arabia and sees both perspectives of needing to be secure and of helping refugees in need. But she believes that the American media is falling short when it comes informing the public, “the media covers attacks only on the Western world, however, more Muslims are dying from terror attacks and the American media is giving almost no coverage to efforts by Muslim countries to combat terrorism.” Muslims are constantly being called to condemn and to do something about the terrorist attacks, yet it is people of the Muslim faith that are the overwhelming victims of terrorism. Some efforts to combat radical Islamic terrorism have included convening a Summit Security Committee hosted by Saudi Arabia and a coalition of over 34 Muslim countries.
The media too often unfairly targets Muslims, as Mneerah noted, “ Fox News is the highest rated show on television and they say that Islam is not a religion but an ideology.” These types of statements, whether intended or not, are demeaning and enhance the messaging of people seeking to recruit more followers to groups like ISIS. Mneerah described the issue of this mentality as, “ Muslims are seen as too different and that we contradict American values.” When asked what being a Muslim meant to her she responded, “Being Muslim means following the teachings of Mohammed and his followers, this includes, praying, fasting and showing your faith in how you treat people, it means to be kind and to perfect your work.”
Mneerah suggested some ways to break down barriers and to help eradicate some prejudice against people of the Muslim community, “Have conversations with different people, you’ll be happy to get to know someone from a different culture.” She went on to explain the root causes of groups such as ISIS, “ ISIS attracts vulnerable people with homicidal thoughts, it’s like a gang that is using the pretext of religion. Many are criminals with prison records. They desire a clash of civilizations, the East versus the West.” According to her they are more of a political group than a religious group. American interventionism has contributed toward their recruitment and feeds into their narrative. According to Mneerah, “These people are living a different interpretation of Islam, the Quran is being taken out of context and not being read with the historical context, it was written for Mohammed during his time, we need to re-read and re-evaluate the Muslim texts.”
When asked where she sees hope for a brighter future she said, “ I hope that we look back on this as the crazy phase. But there is hope from people protesting on behalf of total strangers at airports or people like lawyers helping immigrants.” Instead of responding out of fear and anger, people should be willing to listen to the perspective of someone else and be compassionate.