Editor’s note: Students marked with an * were interviewed for this story on the condition of anonymity for fear the repercussions that could impact their visa status, future employment, and unwarranted violation of digital privacy. As such, the names presented with an * are pseudonyms. All students have legal and valid visas.
President Donald Trump’s recent executive orders banning travelers from seven majority Muslim countries have left Muslim students at Lake Forest College confused and worried.
Mustafa Siddiqui ’20 said he thinks the reason for the unprecedented “Muslim ban” is due to “a clash between what is culture and what is religion in Islam. Many people bring the culture into the religion and claim that it is the religion. This is a misconception that needs to [be]cleared to understand Islam.” Siddiqui is a commuter from Lake Villa and attends the mosque weekly at the Islamic Foundation North (IFN) in Libertyville.
The current political climate has sparked recent debates around the safety and security of minorities on campus. The most recent debate is the one regarding the display of Trump flags in some dorm room windows, as some believe they may deter prospective students from attending the College.
A female senior at Maine West High School in Des Plaines visited campus on Feb. 20 for the Admitted Students Day. When asked about the Trump flags, she said, “the [political climate]hasn’t impacted by college search. I’ve always wanted to stay in Chicago. It does make me uncomfortable. I know that people support Trump for a variety of reasons.”
Ahmed Abbas ’17 from Pakistan is concerned about the future for Muslims in America. “I am confused and worried,” he said. As a Muslim I am worried about our safety and rights, it’s really hard to describe how I feel right now because we don’t know what’s going to happen. Yes, there are legal institutions that prohibit government restrictions. But when our president encourages hate and certain targeting of specific people, then people are influenced by their leader to them follow his ideology. We progressed as a nation from segregation but now we are going the other way and going backward.”
Amar Baddour* ’18 is from United Arab Emirates. He said is not concerned by Trump’s executive orders. “The current situation of Muslims in America under President Trump is far better than the current situation of Muslims in many other countries, including some Muslim majority countries where Muslims are going through much more prejudice and even persecution,” he said.
Not all Muslim students share that view. “It has been really tense lately, not just between Muslims and non-Muslims, but even within the Muslim community between Muslims who support the current political decisions that impact our own community and simply choose not to care about that,” Veeda Bahri*, a sophomore from France and Morocco said.
The Muslim Student Association plays an active role on campus by bringing Muslims and non-Muslims together for dialogue. The association also provides Muslim students a support system. Lake Forest College provides resources and support for Muslim students, including emails that address the concerns over the “Muslim ban.” “We are really happy that the school is supporting us and providing us a safe space,” Bahri said. “The Office of Intercultural Relations and President Stephen Schutt even told us that those affected by the Muslim ban will be protected by the school. And that means something…They also said that admitted students from the banned countries will still be accepted. They won’t let the visa issue deter the acceptance of a qualified student.”
The College provided additional resources to support the students, according to Abbas. The students were “offered counseling and dialogue to comfort students to attend to their needs,” Abbas said. “The faculty here really cares about students. No matter where you come from, the faculty will always be here to support you.”
Students said they felt safe as Muslims. However, they are very careful when sharing their views in regard to the current political climate. “No one really wants to get their views exposed,” Bahri said. “We are being as vague as possible about our views and careful about what we say and post and share on Facebook.”