Skline College panel fights ignorance about Islam in events with Muslim Ban


Mark Magat/The Skyline View

Professor Mohammed Mustafa Popal, Kalimah Salahuddin, Sameena Usman discuss current issues surrounding the travel ban affecting the United States and the Muslim Community.

On March 13, guest speakers spoke at a panel about issues concerning the Muslim community, how they are affected and how fear has shaped the media and understanding of Islam.

The panelists included Skyline professor Mohammed Mustafa Popal and Kalimah Salahuddin, a Board of Trustees member of Jefferson Union High School District.

The panel began with questions asking the speakers about their opinions on the new policies President Donald Trump has signed regarding the Muslim community. Sameena Usman, Government Relations Coordinator for the Council on American Islamic Relations said Trump’s travel policies are “demonizing those who are [of] Muslim majority.”

“We can’t pretend this is about terrorism,” Usman said. “It’s definitely about focusing on Muslim countries and demonizing those who are there who are really struggling to try to escape persecution and try to make a better life for themselves and they have been vetted.”

When an immigrant is vetted, Usman explained it can be a difficult process where people can spend years getting their visas and then be told they cannot come to the United States.

Usman’s organization provides free legal services to people who are experiencing hate crime, school bullying and harassment. Since the first ban was in place, Usman told the audience that there has been a higher level of calls pertaining to questions about the ban and reports of families being torn apart.

Salahuddin contributed to the panel as a Muslim politician on the Jefferson Union High School District taking a personal note on how 9/11, President Trump and students in her district have affected her.

She began on how the harassment of being Muslim has escalated over the years, especially after 9/11 when her mother was physically attacked. But when President Trump was elected, she has seen incidents where Muslim students have been harassed after the election.

“When a country tried to control someone they use fear,” Salahuddin said. “It’s really easy to isolate a group of people, especially if Americans don’t know a lot about that group.”

The fear is in relation to the students she works with and how their parents constantly travel while worrying that they might not be let back into the U.S. Salahuddin mentioned that the media plays a huge part in the fear as well.

“There’s a constant barrage on the news, social media, it’s extremely negative on top of the negative things that are already on movies,” Salahuddin said. “Every time and every action for a while, there was a Muslim terrorist doing something so you get all this negative messaging and then now it’s been jacked up even more.”

The panel’s goal was to inform the Skyline community of the dangers of being silent and trusting information that’s presented without fact checking.

“If we look at American history in general,” Popal said. “There are moments of economic insecurity when there’s fundamentally [an] environment which the social economic [and] critical structures rest on transforming produces a level of anxiety and fear while people are trying to grasp and understand what’s happening.”