Several hundred members of the Boston College community gathered on O’Neill Plaza at noon Friday to protest President Donald Trump’s controversial week-old executive order on immigration. The order bans travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, prevents all refugees from entering the United States for 120 days, and bans Syrian refugees indefinitely. The protest was organized by the Muslim Students Association (MSA) after a member, Sara Elzeini, MCAS ’18, had the idea last weekend. Over 30 student groups reached out to her asking to partner in the event.
Elzeini started off the event, titled “Together We Stand,” with a moment of silence while she recited Al Fatihah, the prayer that opens the Quran. Elzeini’s mother was detained in Egypt for all of last year, which she said was the hardest time she has ever had.
“[Trump] has offended every single person living on this earth, on this planet, in this country, and the only way to fight back is with our strength, and with our solidarity, and with our motivation and our hearts, because he doesn’t have one,” Elzeini said. “So let’s show him ours.”
Stephen Pope, a theology professor, said the executive order takes people who are the most needy and scapegoats them for other problems and worries facing the U.S. Pope read a line from the Old Testament: “You shall treat the stranger in your midst as a native among you, as one of your own … for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
“The present regime only got into power because it was supported by Christians,” he said. “They have forgotten this line.”
Earlier this week, University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., Executive Vice President Michael Lochhead, and Provost David Quigley sent an email statement to the BC community denouncing the executive order as un-Christian and offering resources to people affected. They advised citizens of the seven Muslim-majority countries to remain in the U.S. because they might be prevented from returning.
BC was also among 598 colleges that signed a letter sent on Friday to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly through the American Council on Education. The letter highlights international exchange as “a core value and strength of American higher education,” and encourages the U.S. to welcome foreign scholars and students.
Bryn Spielvogel, a member of Eradicate BC Racism and LGSOE ’20, and Maheen Haider, GMCAS ’21, also spoke. Spielvogel mentioned a petition launched by several students last semester in the wake of Trump’s election. It calls on the University to take several steps to become a sanctuary campus for undocumented immigrants and other marginalized communities, including making BC’s churches physical refuges for those who need shelter, and providing housing during school vacations for students who are concerned about returning to their home countries. Eradicate posted on its Facebook page after the administrators’ email was sent out on Sunday encouraging further action from the University.
As his office is not directly involved in those decisions, Dean of Students Thomas Mogan declined to comment specifically on the petition. Associate Director of Campus Ministry Chris Darcy said campus ministers will put themselves out there to be available to students who are affected by the executive order, most likely on an informal basis.
“But after something like this,” Darcy said, referencing the demonstration, “we’ll see where this moves us on whatever we need to do.”
Aneeb Sheikh, MCAS ’20, who immigrated from Pakistan to Dallas last August, also spoke today, referencing statements made last weekend by a Muslim community leader named Omar Suleiman, speaking at a protest at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
“Dehumanization is to speak of Muslims only in the context of national security, and not as people who have families, careers, and dreams, just like you and me,” Sheikh said.
He said Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad were all refugees.
“Donald Trump is creating his own worst nightmare,” Sheikh said. “He has forced us out of our comfort zones and brought all of us here … because we will not allow our country to go down this path.”
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor