The nation’s chosen policy and the new path forward to map out

Austin Liu and Billie Firmin

Since the new President Donald Trump entered the oval office, the nation has been sent in a new, surprising direction for many Americans and others around the world. Among the policies that the Trump administration has adopted is that of the controversial Muslim travel ban, which affects the movement and activities of people between the United States and seven Muslim-majority countries from Africa and the Middle East.

In the weeks following the implementation of the Muslim travel ban, numerous stories spread about the effect and troubles of the ban for many families across the country. Millions have protested against the ban in cities and airports nationwide, with many demonstrators gathering at terminals and marching on the streets.

 The ban, according to BBC News, was enforced as “an executive order halting all refugee admissions and temporarily barring people from seven Muslim-majority countries” by President Donald Trump on Jan. 27, 2017. These seven Middle Eastern and African countries of which the ban is affecting now through the creation of a temporary 90-day visa suspension are Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Iran.

However, a little over a month later, the Trump administration has decided to change the old ban to exclude the enforcement of the ban on Iraq due to Iraq’s stated commitment to cooperate with the United States government to fight against ISIS in the country.

On the Friday and Saturday after the ban was put into effect, according to The Guardian, “around 100 people were held at airports” and “by late afternoon on Sunday, travelers remained in custody at various airports.”

One of the airports, John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City, was where one Iranian U.S. permanent legal resident and an Iranian student were finally released from the airport on the Saturday after the ban was in effect.

Furthermore, in Washington D.C., there were considerable protests at Dulles International Airport, where some travellers were being held. The Guardian wrote that “protests were also reported at airports serving Dallas-Fort Worth; Miami; Los Angeles; Detroit; Portland, Oregon, and many more cities,” and that “most protests were peaceful.” However, “six protesters had been arrested at Charlotte Douglas international airport in South Carolina.”

 During this time, many people across the nation also gathered together to join in protests and marches to voice their disfavor for the travel ban. Protests against the immigration order erupted in more than 30 major cities, and many more were held in smaller cities such as Fayetteville.

 Non-profit organization Canopy NWA, an organization that is dedicated to providing help and settlement to new refugees in Northwest Arkansas, held a town hall meeting on Feb. 23 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Church of Nazarene in Bentonville. The meeting updated the situation of local refugee families and discussed what people in the Northwest Arkansas area could do to be involved in their work.

 The organization and the work Canopy NWA has done in the past few months has received respect and support from local and state political leaders such as Governor Asa Hutchinson, and Congressman Steve Womack. Governor Hutchinson has called Trump’s travel ban as “dramatic.”

Now, as the organization’s efforts and work to achieve their primary goals have been impeded by the travel ban, the leaders are looking towards the people of the community to act out and change the travel ban’s order. Following the enforcement of the ban, the organization has tried to reach out to other lawmakers such as Senator Tom Cotton, urging citizens to communicate their ideas and their desires to change President Trump’s order on refugee travel and resettlement.

 At the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, Professor of Modern Middle East History Dr. Joel Gordon, believes that “the ban appears to be unconstitutional” and that “it is unnecessary since the process for entering this country legally is very rigorous.” The reason, he says, that people would support this type of ban now is that “many people have been terrorized by exaggerated reports of threats from abroad” as “Americans can be very sheltered compared to many other people,” but he also mentioned that “it is important to realize that most people did not want this and have rejected it.”

 “Since the ban was frozen by the courts, it had very little impact– except on those who were detained for the few days it was in effect,” Gordon added.

 He stated that the ban had affected the emotions and thoughts of the students and staff at the University of Arkansas.

“[The ban] did create a great sense of unease among UA community members, not just from those countries but from other Muslim majority countries.”

 For the future of the department of the King Fahd Center for Middle Eastern Studies and the University of Arkansas, Gordon said, “It will impact research travel…Some people will not be able to go visit their families…we will all be less welcome abroad.”

   “There are many lessons [to learn], some related specifically to how policy should be drafted and proposed,” Gordon said. “[It] was ill-conceived…reveals a superficial understanding…of U.S. and international relations. [The ban] raises serious issues about the need to reach out to all Americans [and U.S. visitors] rather than to demonize others and sow fear.”

 Adding to his thoughts about the ban, he suggested that people “study and learn about the vast geographic spread of the Muslim world, the diverse languages, religious traditions and cultures” and “become more informed about the politics and economics of these countries to see what leads people to come to this country to study or work, temporarily or permanently.”

 Through the work and preparation of many students involved together, FHS students were was able to learn about the culture of Saudi Arabia, gaining knowledge about the distinct people and their lives in the area. Saudi Arabian students recently worked together in connection with the FHS World Language Club to plan out the recent event, the first Saudi Festival. The Saudi Festival at FHS took place at the FHS Performing Arts Center on Mar. 3 during the A&E period. Both students and teachers were invited to come and also asked to spread the news about the event to friends and other students.

At the event, students and teachers were able to learn about many aspects of Saudi Arabian life and culture such as the development of the country’s economy, landmarks in the country, clothing worn by the people, useful phrases to say in Arabic and more through presentations prepared by Saudi Arabian students. The Saudi Festival ended with people offered to try and taste some of the prominent foods and dishes of Saudi Arabia cooked and brought by Saudi Arabian students.  

 Another one of the clubs at FHS, Promotion of Diverse Students (PDS), has not been officially reacted to the travel ban. However, the President of PDS, Kaya Kidd, voice support of the idea that the school needs “to stay strong.”

“[PDS] believes in equality; helping those who cannot help themselves,” Kidd said. “The goal is to bring multiple races together, not to separate or ‘lock people out.’ Will we ever achieve this? I truly believe that we can at least try.”

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