Grad Student Union Hosts Anti-Islamophobia Teach-In

Islamophobia
Anwar N. Omeish ‘19 discusses Islamophobia in the U.S. in response to the Trump administration’s ban on Muslim immigration.

The International Scholars Working Group, part of Harvard’s Graduate Student Union-United Auto Workers, held a teach-in on Islamophobia Thursday evening that looked to educate members about “the history of Islamophobia in the U.S. and current issues facing Muslim communities,” according to the group’s Facebook page.

Anwar Omeish ’19, a member of an undergraduate student group called the Anti-Islamophobia Network, led the teach-in, discussing discrimination against Muslims. Omeish said that recent attacks on Muslims by activists, media outlets, and think tanks have fed a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment.

“I used to say it was impossible to be an active Muslim-American and not be controversial,” she said. “That’s what we’re seeing now.”

Jake T. Gable, a member of the International Scholars Working Group and the teach-in’s organizer, said he arranged the event to learn about an important issue from another campus organization.

“We wanted to organize this event...to begin to cultivate cross-campus and cross-group connections and promote that outreach with each other,” he said.

Omeish also described surveillance, incarceration, and immigration programs that she said targeted Muslims, calling them discriminatory and prejudicial.

“These policies not only are messed up and target people based on their identities, but also don’t work,” she said. “They are not the best way to fight terrorism. And they often trigger anger or resentment against the government.”

Gable said that the event provided “an opportunity for grad students to become more informed on issues impacting international students and international scholars” and to hear from students with "different perspectives."

Marena Lin, a member of the International Scholars Working Group, said international students should learn about the prejudice that Muslims face, since they may experience similar discrimination in the future.

“The kind of federal targeting that has been happening to the Muslim community now has played itself out in history to other groups in very much the same way and understanding how this is institutionalized...is very important for other groups that might be affected by the same things,” she said.

Omeish said the Anti-Islamophobia Network would try to involve members of the International Scholars Working Group in its upcoming activism efforts, adding that she considers the ISWG “as an allied group.”

“It’s definitely important for us to be doing that cross-education,” Omeish said.

The teach-in comes one month after the International Scholars Working Group delivered a petition to University president Drew G. Faust, protesting Harvard’s response to President Donald J. Trump’s first travel ban.

—Staff writer Caroline S. Engelmayer can be reached at caroline.engelmayer@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @cengelmayer13.

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