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Muslim Student Groups Host Vigil At Memorial Church

Around 100 students from across Harvard’s schools gathered Wednesday night for a candlelight vigil in response to a series of hate crimes against Muslims and President Donald Trump’s recent executive orders.

The vigil comes in the wake of Trump’s executive order suspending immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Omar M. El-Halwagi, a first year student at the Kennedy School who organized the vigil, said the gathering was also meant to commemorate six people who died this weekend in a shooting at a Mosque in Quebec as well as a mosque in Texas that was burnt down.

Vigil-goers lit candles and huddled together on the steps of Memorial Church. El-Halwagi reflected on the future of Muslims’ lives under Trump’s immigration order.

“I think it’s easy to think about policy, but not to just sit in the moment and think,” El-Halwagi said.

Umar S. Zaidi, a student at the Extension School, and Meral Kocak, a student at the Divinity School, delivered prayers in Arabic and English.

Reverend Lucy A. Forster-Smith, the senior minister at Memorial Church, followed the two students with a reading from the Bible that focused on the importance of being kind to foreigners.

After her reading, Forster-Smith said that a Muslim chaplain will soon stand beside her for future vigils and gatherings. In University President Drew G. Faust’s email responding to Trump’s order, she wrote that she had initiated a search for Harvard’s first Muslim chaplain, a measure called for by members of the Harvard Islamic Society.

Following a moment of silence to show solidarity with victims of the attacks and immigration order, crowd members were invited to stand on the stairs and share their stories, thoughts, and concerns with the group.

El-Halwagi ended the vigil with what he called three “action items.” First, he encouraged everyone to reach out to Muslim communities outside of Harvard, such as Muslims living in the greater Boston area or in attendees’ hometowns. He also asked people to support the families of the Quebec mosque victims through donations, which he said are being gathered on Facebook. Finally, El-Halwagi said that if other groups become vulnerable in the United States, it will be important to support them without forgetting Muslim Americans’ pain.

The vigil was organized by the the Kennedy School’s Muslim Caucus, of which El-Halwagi is a part, but he said that it was in collaboration with all other Muslim groups across the University.

“At the very least we have to feel,” El-Halwagi said. “And I think we have done that tonight.”

—Staff writer Julia E. DeBenedictis can be reached at julia.debenedictis@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @julia_debene.

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