Ayoub Ouederni is the president of the UNC Muslim Students Association. Staff Writer Preston Lennon spoke with him about what UNC MSA is doing in light of President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration.
The Daily Tar Heel: How are you and the UNC MSA reacting to President Trump’s executive order that restricts immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries?
Ayoub Ouederni: So a lot of our MSA members are angered or hurt. And beyond all that, they’re directly affected. We have members, fellow Tar Heels just like me and you, that now cannot go overseas ... It’s separating families. You know, we see it on TV and we know that it doesn’t happen to us — it seems so far away. But then you see it happen to your friends or classmates who can’t go abroad or their mom is overseas who can’t come back — they can’t see their mom for 90 or 120 days or whatever the order said, because she happened to be visiting family when this executive order was signed. That personally affected a lot of our members.
DTH: What kind of support is your organization offering to those affected by the policy, and to the Muslim community as a whole?
AO: So our organization specifically is encouraging any person who has been affected to personally reach out to us and we’ll put them in touch with the relevant University and government officials to figure out the best course of action if they need help or counseling, or a way to figure out their path forward. We connect them with all those.
And secondly, I want to mention the support we’ve gotten from our campus partners and other community members. My inbox for the past two, three days has been literally hundreds of emails from people from all walks of life here at UNC, whether it’s the dean of the business school, dean of the Gillings School of (Global) Public Health, or University officials, or just professors or just students who are, like, “Hey, you know, I’m sorry you all are going through this.”
DTH: What do you want people outside the Muslim community to understand about these issues and the current situation?
AO: So I want them to understand that this is an issue that doesn’t just affect Muslim students, or Muslim Americans. There are Christian, Jewish, many other faiths in the Middle East that are affected by this order. And secondly, this shouldn’t be seen as affecting just Muslims — this is something that affects every American. The fact that we’re living in a time where someone with a pen can just sign away and stop Americans who came here legally and who have been here and who have lived here their entire lives from coming back to their homes — to me that’s egregious and should worry every single American, no matter what political party or face you identify with.
DTH: Can you talk about the “Our America” Unity Rally, taking place this Friday?
AO: We met together and decided that we would love to have a rally similar to what happened at RDU or what’s going to happen at the State Capitol grounds the following day, to show that as UNC students, as a beacon of leadership in this state, UNC is looked up to by universities around the state, around the country.
DTH: Is there anything you would like to tell the people of UNC about this situation and the current political climate?
AO: So I’d like to say thank you. It’s times like this where we see the true Carolina way, the true Tar Heel spirit, where everybody reaches out and shows strength and shows support for one another. And that’s something that we’re truly grateful for. Every single Tar Heel of all walks of life came together and said “We support you all and we’re sorry this is happening. Please let us know what we can do.” That was very heartening and very touching.
And also, as we referenced earlier, we need to stay vigilant. It starts with a ban on seven countries, then who knows what it will increase to in two years. I’ve seen the stats saying that they’re going to expand it to two more additional countries. And so I think it’s important for us to stay vigilant. Our democracy is under threat.