There are only a few weeks left before the U.S. has a new president and there is great focus on the candidates’ policies, including that of Islam and immigration. Numerous opinions of these political issues float around campus daily. Sources such as specific political affiliated networks are responsible for broadcasting to viewers constantly, but not all information is correct or brought to the public’s attention. A student-run panel, hosted by the Middle East politics class, was presented to educate and inform students regarding the U.S. and Islamophobia. Sitting in front of a handful of viewers in the McCormick lounge, the student panel individually explained different aspects of Islam, including religion, culture, immigration and terrorism.

The students running the panel were well prepared and informative when discussing the different topics. In their own words, they explained to students how the religion and culture of Islam is a peaceful culture and that violence has overshadowed it in the past few decades.

A large portion of the discussion was centered around the current refugee crisis in Syria. Students argued with the panel that the country lacks the resources to take more people in. Responses to this concern were addressed by explaining how the immigration process works from the experience of one panel member, Nadra Al-Hamwy ‘18. Al-Hamwy’s family was still undergoing and waiting on their acceptance into this country legally after seven years. She explained that for a refugee to come into the country, the housing process is also a hassle.

“Refugees are granted three months of housing and then are put into relocation agencies to help them find jobs,” said Al-Hamwy.

When audience members mentioned the lack of help that our own veterans receive, the panel responded by agreeing that the country faces its own problems. However, the problems in Syria are time sensitive.
“I think that to solve this issue, we need to put a human aspect into it as well as find collaborative solutions that do not place too much of a burden when we have these other issues that we must deal within our own country,” said panel member Rebecca Hyatt ‘17.

Hyatt continued to describe how she can understand how a refugee must feel. While studying abroad in the fall, Hyatt and a friend were on top of the Eiffel Tower on the same night that the Paris attack happened.
“It kind of opened up our eyes. Saying to each other, ‘Oh, my gosh, we want to get out of here’ really just made me think, what if I couldn’t leave and how would that feel if I dealt with this sort of terror on a day to day life?” explained Hyatt.

While on the topic of terrorism, the panel talked about how everyone sees the world differently based on how they were raised. They expressed to students the fact that if you are brought up having no sincere exposure to people of different races or religions, chances are that you are inclined to believe stereotypes that you hear. The student panel advised the audience to educate themselves using the internet and through real social interaction if they have questions about certain cultures.
“I definitely learned something today and I think it’s good to have an environment like Fairfield where people can speak their mind openly,” said Robert Fredette ‘18. “Truthfully, my opinions changed a little bit, but not too much. I understand the faith aspect of it more, but I think that there’s more of an issue happening with the terrorism aspect of it and how it went wrong.”

The panel concluded their open discussion and remained at their seats for any further questions from students. Most students stayed until the end, leaving with what the panel had hoped was a clearer understanding of Islam.

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