Strong chants resonated outside the Hornbake Library at the Frederick Douglass statue on the rainy night of Nov. 19. This university’s determined students gathered together to rally against Gov. Larry Hogan’s recent request to the Obama administration to halt resettlement of Syrian refugees in Maryland.

“Don’t give in to racist fear! Refugees are welcome here!  

Say it loud, say it clear! Refugees are welcome here!”

The message of the rally was clear — this university should not stand for Hogan’s suggestively racist, Islamophobic and xenophobic decision.

“Hogan’s attempts to deny Syrian refugees into the state is antithetical to the principles of human rights and flies in the face of our values as students at our esteemed university,” said Shane James, co-president of Students for Justice in Palestine.

One of the highlighted speakers was Miranda Mlilo, a freshman environmental science and policy major, who expressed the ideals that the U.S. prides itself on — the American Dream.

“The right to live well, support your family, work and practice your religion,” Mlilo said. “The right to freedom.”

Her soft tone changed as she shared an observation of the difficult reality.

“Right now there are millions of Syrian refugees asking for – begging for – these freedoms, and we’re saying no,” she said.

The crowd snapped their fingers in agreement.

“Somehow, we are worthy and they are not,” she said. “I don’t stand for this hypocrisy. We don’t stand for this hypocrisy.”

James mentioned the refugee crisis stems from a civil war and expansion of the sectarian extremist militia, ISIS.

“They don’t care about scientific fact,” said Zein El-Amine, a lecturer and advisor in Arabic studies. ”They make xenophobic declarations that actually match the ISIS manifesto.”

He shared numbers that reflect the suggestively existing racism.

“You would think there are hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees,” El-Amine said. ”The reality is that, since 9/11, we’ve had only 2,170 Syrian refugees coming to this country, and how many of them have been accused of any crime let alone terrorism?”

Mixed responses of “zero” and “none” resonated from the crowd.

Delia Dreher, a Junior Cultural Anthropology major, helps hold a sign saying, "Refugees Welcome Here" in front of the Frederick Douglass statue in Hornbake plaza.
Delia Dreher, a junior cultural anthropology major, helps hold a sign saying, “Refugees Welcome Here” in front of the Frederick Douglass statue in Hornbake plaza. (Josh Loock/Bloc Reporter)

Regarding government officials who acted similarly to Hogan, El-Amine added that opposers of the Syrian refugee resettlement acted as if the U.S. is still in the 20th century.

“We own the media, not the government, and we can expose this archaic political, opportunist action,” he said.

He mentioned xenophobia is coming from the counterfeit Syrian passports found at the sites of the Paris bombings.  

“The fact that these passports were found to be fake obviously shows that ISIS wants a clash of civilization,” he said.

“It is obvious that their desires match the desires of Paul Ryan, which is to stop Syrian refugees to create that kind of desperation that is fertile ground for their recruitment – for what they have been doing,” he added.

He then spoke about the government officials who support the refugees.

“The one thing that we have on our side is that 85 mayors across the country say they support the legislation to have Syrians,” he said.

The crowd, again, snapped their fingers in approval.

“That is science, that is reality – those are the people that are fighting ISIS, but there’s 23 states that have actually supported ISIS by blocking that,” he said.

Zakiyah Wada, a sophomore microbiology major, said she felt being a part of the rally was a positive decision.

“It was a good event and it was refreshing to see students stand up in solidarity. It’s nice to know you’re not the only one who cares,” she said.

Mlilo expressed that students have a voice.

“We are here to show our school that we stand with Syrian refugees . We’re here to show our state that we stand with Syrian refugees, and we are out here to show the world that we stand with refugees,” she said.

James said the actions of the U.S.government and other world powers, in addition to the profit drive of arms companies, underlies the explosion of violence, dictatorship and extremism in the region.

“So we owe it to our brothers and sisters who are seeking peace and life to support them,” he said.

“Because if we don’t then who will?” Mlilo asked.

Saarah Javed, a junior government and politics major, ended the rally with an announcement about the relevant upcoming protests.

One of the protests will be in Annapolis on Nov. 19 in opposition to Hogan and the others will be on Nov. 20 in front of the White House, to show dissent to the governors who have expressed their refusal to allow entry for Syrian refugees into their respective states.

“The protests are to show that we do not agree and that we will not just idly sit by and go along with this,” Javed said.

Featured Photo Credit: Miranda Mlilo, a freshman environmental science and policy major, speaks into a megaphone at the event. (Josh Loock/Bloc Reporter)

Jennifer Pham is a junior multiplatform journalism major and may be reached at jenaipham@gmail.com

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