On February 12, Xavier University’s Muslim Student Association hosted a “We the People” march around Xavier’s campus. The march was in response to President Donald Trump’s travel ban, which was an attempt to prevent immigration in seven, mostly Islamic countries. Because the group of people the ban targets is obvious, people have started to refer to it as the “Muslim Ban.”
“It means a lot to me personally,” said MSA member Hana Alkhafaf, who didn’t know what was going on when the controversial ban was first put into effect. Alkhafaf came home from work with her phone flooded from texts from friends and relatives, trying to make sure she was okay. When she did find out what was going on, she was hurt. So she, and other members of the MSA, came together and planned a march to exercise the First Amendment rights and show people everyone could stand in solidarity.
“You guys coming out here and supporting us means the world to us,” Alkhafaf told the crowd at the march. Prior to opening up the floor for people to speak on how the ban affected them personally, she reminded everyone that it was going to be a peaceful march. “The only way we will ever get other people to see eye to eye with us is if we carry ourselves with elegance,” Alkhafaf said.
Students, faculty, staff, and community from all walks of life attended the march, which was the intent. They were even given a chance to take the mic and talk about how the ban had affected them personally and also how they felt being at the march.One student, the preside of the Muslim Student Association at the University of New Orleans, Farah Alkhafaf, attended the march because she not only had friends at Xavier, but also because she felt she needed to make an effort to show up when people are standing in solidarity.
“What I’m seeing in front of me is beautiful,” Farah said. “Different colors, different shades coming together in the University Center… I just want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart.” Farah Alkhafaf, an IraqiAmerican Muslim, shared a story about how bans such as this enforce the stigma of Muslims being terrorists. When she was younger, her parents shielded her from 9/11; however, they could not control what she heard from her classmates. She said the students asked her why she hated them.
“I was shocked. I was like, ‘why would I hate you guys?’” she said. “New Orleans is all I know.” Her story reiterated why it was important for everyone to stand in solidarity at this march. Not only is the ban harmful for traveling, but it also promotes hatred and bigotry.
After the last person who wanted to speak had spoken, the protesters walked around campus twice, led by the university police. They held signs that had been made the previous Friday, which had different sayings on them, some of which read, “#NoMuslimBan,” “Unite the States of America,” and “Hate has no Home Here.” Everyone participated in many chants as they walked, saying, “This is what democracy looks like!” in response to the diverse group.
After the march, everyone gathered together for a prayer on the yard of the University Center. The march was important in signifying that Xavierites are one, despite racial background, religious background, or anything else that makes students, faculty, and staff different.
As protests happen all over America and federal courts start to appeal the ban, one small school in New Orleans, La. is standing with MSA to enforce, “Hey-hey, ho-ho, the Muslim Ban has got to go!” as protesters chanted.The protest is followed by week-long events titled, “We are One Xavier.”