Meg Gordon / Sun Contributor

Students and faculty gather in the Klarman Atrium for a teach-in on Islam on Friday.

February 18, 2017

Near Eastern Studies Department Shows Support through Teach-In on Islam

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Nearly 100 participants listened to speakers present on diverse topics regarding the current outlook for practicing Muslims in Trump’s America at Islam Teach-In in the Klarman Atrium on Friday.

The event, which was co-sponsored by the Clark Institute for Law and Development in the Middle East and North Africa, Comparative Muslim Societies, Jewish Studies, and Ottoman and Turkish Studies Initiative, began with a statement from Prof. Deborah Starr, near eastern studies, the event’s moderator.

Starr discussed the role of the teach-in as “just one prong of our response of our opposition to the Muslim Ban,” a controversial executive order banning entry from seven Muslim-majority countries on Jan. 27. She was joined by chair of the Department of Near Eastern Studies Prof. Lauren Monroe.

“We wanted to demonstrate that we stand with the students, faculty and staff who are impacted by the executive order on immigration in the Middle East,” Monroe said. “We also wanted to fulfill what we see as our mandate to educate on the Middle East and to do it by bringing the faculty out of the classroom and into the broader Cornell community.”

The teach-in was held shortly after Cornell joined an amicus brief with 16 other universities on Feb. 13th, declaring support for all affected students and staff on what has been declared a sanctuary campus, The Sun previously reported.

Professors from departments ranging from near eastern studies to performance and media arts presented on topics such as the history of Islam and the present Syrian refugee crisis.

In his discussion of “The Diversity of Islam,” Prof. Eric Tagliacozzo, history, director of the Comparative Muslim Societies Program, emphasized the importance of intersectionality.

“Muslims want the same things as any of the rest of us who may not be Muslim,” he said. “They want a better life, they want safety, health, and happiness for their loved ones, and they want their children to have better opportunities than they themselves have had. They want, in short, what any of us want.”

To Samuel Rabkin ’15, the teach-in went beyond the denouncement of the Trump administration, offering a more constructive solution to participants.

“Events like this are a great opportunity to have a dialogue and to learn more,” he said.

Rabkin, a full-time staff member for the Cornell University Religious Works, emphasized the importance of solidarity with Muslim peers.

“For me, the most important thing is the personal level,” he said. “As a Christian, my goal is to share Christ’s love with everyone, and so, specifically in this context, build friendships with Muslim students, hear people’s perspectives, and show respect throughout.”

For Lena Ransohoff ’17, events like this create “an opportunity to make a powerful statement.”

“Honestly, I am professionally looking into careers that will directly or indirectly improve the situation being discussed,” she said. “I really do want to make a life out of this. The urgency of these issues makes it impossible not to.”