MSU professors discuss religion and the Trump administration

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President Donald Trump’s first 100 days have been nothing short of controversy, ranging from the confirmation of Betsy DeVos, to the executive order which banned travel of people from seven countries whose major religion is Islam.

At a Feb. 10 panel, a panel of Michigan State professors discussed not only the executive order on the travel ban, but also religious freedom in the Trump administration.

Mohammad Khalil

Michigan State photo

Mohammad Khalil

Religious and Muslim studies professor Mohammad Khalil, who was on the panel, is also Muslim, and said people feel “emboldened” by Trump winning the election, to act this way.

“They’re openly saying things they didn’t use to say,” Khalil said. “They’re doing things now, they didn’t use to do … because they see Muslims as a threat.”

This is due to people not knowing the difference between Islam and terrorist groups like ISIS but also that Muslims aren’t a threat to the law as the public perceives them to be, Khalil said.

“Muslims I know, they’re happy … they don’t want anything to do with the law,” Khalil said. “Muslims are one percent of the population. What are we going to do really?”

What Muslims are, however, is stressed, Khalil said.

Khalil said Muslims are less stressed since the travel ban being reversed by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the resignation of former national security adviser of, Gen. Michael T. Flynn.

“I think people are breathing a sigh of relief,” Khalil said. “A week and a half ago, it felt like everything was against us.”

This isn’t the first time the U.S. has gone through xenophobic moments, said religious studies professor Shreena Gandhi.

“We like to scapegoat,” Gandhi said. “Right now, we’re going through a moment where we’re scapegoating Muslims and immigrants, and we’re blaming all our problems on them.”

The unwanted exposure may have helped, Khalil said.

“More Americans today have a positive view of Muslims, and I think that’s because of the campaign against Trump,” Khalil said. “People were exposed to all kinds of Muslims, that maybe they weren’t exposed to before.”

Social work junior Katie Huska said she learned different perspectives from the panel.

“It’s affecting everyone, not just a particular religion, but as a culture,” Huska said. “We have to be a little more understanding of other people’s culture and just to continue to do research and fact check what we’re told.”

Khalil said he’s now worried for when the next terrorist attack happens, and if the lifelong Lansing area resident will be put into an internment camp, as Japanese-Americans were during World War II.

“It doesn’t seem like the America we knew,” Khalil said. “I was born in Sparrow (Hospital), I was born in America, my wife same thing, and we’re both Muslim.”

“We’re American too, and we’re proud to be American.”

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