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Panel tackles Trump administration, Islamophobia

Terrorists—who and where are they? Monday afternoon, in  Theater II of the Memorial Union Building, a panel of professors spoke about the political and environmental change in the Middle East as well as President Donald Trump’s recent executive orders regarding travel restrictions, more commonly dubbed as the “Travel Ban.” The panel discussion, titled “National Security, Islam and the Trump Administration,” was sponsored by the departments of political science and history, the internation affairs program.

The event was split up into two presentations, moderated by Professor Ethel Sara Wolper from the department of history.

First, Professor Jeannie Sowers, from the department of political science, spoke about Islamophobia and U.S Policies in the Middle East. She started off by stating that Islamophobia has been around since before Trump’s election into office with its origin credited mostly with the attack on the Twin Towers in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. According to Sowers’ presentation, Americans’ feelings are beginning to become more “warm” towards other religious groups; with positive attitudes towards Muslims being at 48 percent.

“Public opinion is divided by age, education and party affiliation,” said Sowers, when speaking about the change in public opinions about Muslims. “Younger, more educated Democratic individuals tend to be more accepting of other religions.”

There is a common misconception that everyone from the Middle East must be Muslim; and vice versa, everyone who is Muslim, must be Middle Eastern. Also, according to Sowers, only one percent of Americans are Muslim; which results in a political inconsistency in regard to America’s perception of how many people are Muslim verses how many really are.

When going over things that threaten the lives of Americans, Sowers said, “You’re more likely to be killed by lighting asteroids and sharks than a terrorist attack.”

Sowers ended her presentation talking more about the war on terror and 9/11 attacks. She spoke about how anti-Muslim groups and Islamic extremists have similar ideologies; in that people of these groups both believe that their religion is the best. These ideas don’t represent the majority of the American population.

The second presentation, titled “National Security, Islam and Civil Liberties” was done by Professor Albert Scheer from the International Criminal Law and Justice Program at the UNH School of Law. Scheer spoke about the executive orders under Trump regarding the 90 day travel suspension for individuals from the following countries: Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. There was also a 120-day suspension for refugees, which later went to allow refugees that were of any Christian/minority religion. Lastly, this order wanted to indefinitely ban entry of Syrian refugees.

“Rights of due process apply to all humans,” Scheer said. With this point, he means that immigrants and refugees have rights to a hearing before being banned from a country.

Lastly, Scheer spoke about Trump’s revision of the executive order regarding the travel ban, which was the same as the first order except that Iraq was not included in the list of countries. This executive order, which was signed by Trump on March 6, was halted from going into effect by a federal judge on March 15.

“There will be a hearing to follow about the refugee from Syria ban coming eventually,”  Scheer said as he ended his presentation.

The event ended with a short Q&A session with the two professors.

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