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Islamic Society to Host Anti-Islamophobia Event

By Hannah Natanson, Crimson Staff Writer

UPDATED: December 2, 2016, at 1:40 p.m.

The Harvard Islamic Society will host a discussion highlighting issues of discrimination against Muslims in America in light of Donald Trump's election to the presidency.

The event, titled “Rights & Registries: Teach-In on Institutionalized Islamophobia,” is scheduled to take place Friday afternoon in Boylston Hall’s Fong Auditorium. A Facebook page for the teach-in invites attendees to “come learn about Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment” in “the wake of the election.”

Anwar Omeish ’17, a member of the Islamic Society who will lead the discussion Friday, said the teach-in is an opportunity for people to learn “what Islamophobia looks like” on a level broader than bigotry against individuals.

“So, like, beyond your friend who says racist things,” she said. “Thinking about policies, networks, and structures that target Muslims and Muslim communities. And obviously it’s a particularly fraught time right now, considering the election.”

Over the course of his controversial campaign, Trump often targeted Muslims and Muslim Americans. A year ago, Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” in the wake of a massacre in San Bernardino, Calif.

In the days following Trump’s election, some Harvard students and faculty reported hate speech and harassment based on their ethnicity or disability. On Nov. 17, Harmann Singh, a first-year Harvard Law student, wrote in an editorial for the Boston Globe that he was confronted and called “a f***ing Muslim” by a man in a store a few blocks from campus.

Trump has since disavowed his proposal to ban Muslims from the country, but his plan to form database of practicing Muslims in the U.S. still stands. Omeish said she considers the planned teach-in at Harvard a “response” to “misconceptions and issues” raised over the course of the 2016 election.

She emphasized, however, that the discussion is intended primarily as a call to action.

“It’s definitely not an event that’s like, ‘hey, Muslims aren’t that bad,’” she said. “[It’s] like, so, this election happened, there are actual policies that target Muslim people, there have been and there will continue to be, what do they look like and what can we do about them.”

The teach-in comes at a time when many minority students on Harvard’s campus have reported feeling anxious about the implications of Trump’s presidency. Undocumented students have been especially vocal, rallying in Harvard Yard last month and petitioning Harvard to take measures to protect its undocumented affiliates.

Omeish said she thinks it is “extraordinarily important” to focus on issues facing undocumented immigrants. She added, however, that she thinks the needs of Muslims can sometimes be “overlooked,” both on campus and nationwide.

“One of the goals of this teach-in is to be like, ‘hey, the way we’re talking about all of these other issues as problems that we need to fix, we also need to be talking about this one,’” Omeish said.

Eleanor A. Bragg ’19, who plans to attend the discussion, echoed Omeish’s sentiments.

“If Muslim-American students are calling for more discussion and/or education on campus about Islamophobia under Trump, then student groups and administration should definitely support that discussion,” she wrote in an email.

This article has been updated to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: December 2, 2016

A previous version of this article indicated that Donald Trump told reporters two weeks ago he “would certainly implement” a Muslim registry in the United States. In fact, he told reporters that a year ago.

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