Walls Don’t Hold Back MSA During Rally


Htoo Min

Members of the MSA rally kneel in prayer by the Washington Square Arch to peacefully demonstrate their religious devotion despite the hateful rhetoric surrounding Muslims.

Sayer Devlin and Htoo Min

Prayers and reflections reverberated from the Kimmel Center for University Life glass doors as the staircase once again overflowed with NYU community members. The Muslim Student Association organized today’s rally as a response to President Donald Trump’s latest executive order banning immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Students held a banner that read “#NOBANNOWALLNYU,” which set the backdrop for a series of speakers to address the crowd: NYU President Andrew Hamilton, Provost Katherine Fleming, Executive Director and Imam of the Islamic Center at NYU Khalid Latif, MSA and many other on-campus leaders.

The rally began with a recitation from the Quran and included personal writing and speeches from NYU religious leaders. It concluded with MSA President Afraz Khan leading a prayer, and then he led students in another prayer under the Washington Square Arch.

Khan, a senior in CAS, said that MSA decided to lead the prayer as a public display of Muslim faith. He said the rally was important to inform NYU about how Trump’s recent policies affect certain students and to encourage people to support each other during challenging times.

“As a way of demonstrating our identities and being unapologetically Muslim, we decided to pray in Washington Square Park,” Khan said. “The goal essentially is to give people an idea of the kind of issues that are affecting NYU students and community members directly, and also to reinvigorate in our hearts, our minds, our souls, a purified sense of willingness to keep pushing forward, because sometimes it is easy to get discouraged.”

LS junior RJ Khalaf who serves as the MSA treasurer said the rally was important to him, because he feels a responsibility to his fellow Muslims and those affected by the recent executive orders.

“I have a responsibility to my faith, I have a responsibility to my community and I have a responsibility to anyone who is feeling threatened by these policies,” Khalaf said. “I will do everything in my power to speak out against them [anybody attacking those communities].”

Although Hamilton left the rally after 10 minutes, he briefly spoke about the importance of community and rebuked Trump’s executive order regarding immigration.

“These are very, very strange and troubling times,” Hamilton said in his speech. “It is so important that during these times we show support, we show community, we show friendship to those students feeling threatened — to all of our Muslim students at NYU and especially those Muslim students from the seven countries that have been singled out in this recent appalling executive order.”

Hosein Deghani, a Ph.D. candidate from Iran — one of the seven countries included in the ban — spoke about the process of acquiring his visa. The whole task took over three months, and he still experiences difficulties even obtaining the document.

“One of my close family members is not in good health, and I need to go back and visit my family,” Deghani said to the audience. “What this means for me is that now, in a week or two, I have to leave the country, and I cannot come back to the United States.”

Though he will be unable to return to the country due to Trump’s executive order, Deghani plans to defend his thesis via Skype while in Iran.

CAS freshman Guida Alarumi, a Yemeni-American, said that though the rally was a positive experience, the gravity of the situation still hasn’t really hit her.

“It was heartwarming, because there were so many people, but it’s still just kind of surreal digesting everything,” Alarumi said. “It hit me just now that my grandma can’t really travel anymore. She just got her green card and she was really excited.”

Other students are attempting to come to terms with the executive order by standing alongside their community. Tandon junior Nabil Ahmed said he attended the rally as a Muslim student trying to show his support to all of those affected by the recent changes. He wanted to demonstrate solidarity.

“I am a Muslim student studying in the United States, and I’ve seen so many of my friends, and so many people who are close to me that are really affected by the executive orders that were given,” Ahmed says, “It’s just really important to me to see how they’re telling their own stories, and people from other walks of life are here to listen. It’s really strong in the sense that, when there are times of weakness in a nation like the United States, it’s time to gather everyone together and show support.”

Email Sayer Devlin and Htoo Min at [email protected].