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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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SGA and MSA host panel on current issues facing Muslim Americans

Mustafaa+Carroll+%2C+executive+director+of%26%23160%3BThe+Council+of+American+Islamic+Relations+and+Arsalan+Safiullah%2C+Staff+Attorney.
Photo by Photo by Yuri Suchil

Mustafaa Carroll , executive director of The Council of American Islamic Relations and Arsalan Safiullah, Staff Attorney.

The Texas A&M Student Government Association (SGA) and Muslim Student Association (MSA) presented the “Muslim Americans in the Trump Era” panel to address challenges faced by Muslim Americans today.
The panel on March 29 featured Mustafaa Carroll, Executive director for the Texas chapter of  the Council of American Islamic Relations and CAIR Texas Staff Attorney Arsalan Safiullah.  The panel discussed issues such as discrimination and steps to promote unity in an effective way.
SGA Chief Justice and business honors senior Shelby James said it’s an appropriate time to present this program and collaborate with MSA because the two organizations have not joined together in the past.
“We wanted to use our love of law to provide the student body with something more,” James said. “We wanted students to learn while this may not be something that affects them directly, they are able to empathize with other students on campus.”
Sociology senior and President of MSA Shahd Elbushra said different organizations and people in the community have expressed interest in learning about the Muslim religion.
“People are interested and they want clear answers,” Elbushra said. “I think especially at a university people are willing to learn and have these discussions compared to other places where people are set in their beliefs. With this event, we wanted people who are experts in their field to engage the student body in this discussion.”
Carroll started the panel by describing outreach programs CAIR organizes in the community, including workshops, education and political empowerment. Drawing on his experiences growing up as an African-American man during the civil rights movement, Carroll spoke on similarities and differences he sees between that time period and today.
“The issues are more global now and the vestiges of older issues still exist,” Carroll said.  “But there are many similarities between the times, such as the issues with local & federal law enforcement, a turbulent economy and anti-immigrant sentiment.”
Safiullah reviewed First Amendment rights and court cases regarding religious discrimination. He said a recent local case includes one Muslim American in College Station who was investigated by the FBI due to suspicious behavior reports from a resident, even though the man did not commit a crime. In addition to the travel ban imposed on 7 predominantly-Muslim nations in late January and later halted by a federal court ruling, President Trump has previously proposed the creation of a Muslim registry, a database that would track Muslims in the U.S. Safiullah said that while this idea has been brought up since Trump started campaigning, the details of what such a program would entail remain ambiguous, making the atmosphere more tense for Muslims.
“Things are becoming acceptable because people are afraid,” Safiullah said. “When it comes to the Muslim registry, we do not know what it means because the language surrounding it is confusing.”
Carroll said his parents’ involvement in the civil rights movement shaped his values and outlook later in life.
“I come from a family of preachers and we watched people treat us bad when I was Christian,” Carroll said.  “But I was taught to do good no matter what and we must continue to keep doing that.”
Involvement in the community is an important way to cultivate awareness of the Muslim population, according to Safiullah.
“We have become so closed off, we need to get involved and be active,” Safiullah said. “Get over your fear and meet people.”

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