Muslim ban: 4,000 academics sign petition to boycott conferences in US
People hold signs with names of people detained and denied entry into US (Reuters/ Patrick T.Fallon)
Tuesday 31 January 2017 13:57 UTC
Tuesday 31 January 2017 18:11 UTC
Thousands of academics from around the world have signed an open letter pledging to boycott international conferences held in the US after President Donald Trump banned individuals from seven Muslim-majority nations entering the country.
The ban, which came into force last Friday, prompted global condemnation and mass protests in major cities around the world as the Trump administration stood by its controversial immigration policy.
Individuals hailing from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen who are citizens, dual nationals or born in those countries have been banned from entering the US for the next 120 days.
Green card holders from the banned countries are also included in the ban, while refugees from Iraq and Syria were banned indefinitely from entering the United States.
Having gained signatories from as far afield as Indonesia to India, the petition was signed by 4,000 academics, including 40 Nobel Laureates calling for academics to boycott international conferences in the US till Trump repeals the ban.
Among the groups affected by the ban are students and academics who study and lecture in American universities.
The letter, which has garnered signatures from Indonesia to India, claims that Trump’s controversial executive order “institutionalises racism, and fosters an environment in which people racialised as Muslim are vulnerable to ongoing and intensifying acts of violence and hatred.”
It also said that individuals from the seven banned countries are now practically “trapped in the US, having cancelled planned travel for fear that they will be barred from returning”.
Dr Nadine el-Nany, who lectures at the University of London and helped create the open letter along with academics impacted by the ban, told Middle East Eye that the letter was created to “be clear about their opposition to the ban…(and) not carry on with ‘business as usual’ at a time of emergency.
“It is an attempt to draw necessary attention to the urgency of the ‘Muslim ban’ and to generate conversation on the far-reaching consequences, not only for those who are nationals from the seven countries identified by Trump’s executive order, but also for many others who are not from these countries but who are nonetheless being detained and harassed at the border,” said el-Nany.
She also hit back at statements released other American academic unions that failed to condemn Donald Trump’s executive order outright.
“Professional academic organisations like ISA should be resisting this ban in the clearest of terms and doing everything in their power to support affected academics and students,” said El-Nany in relation to ISA’s statement.
The boycott has however divided opinion within the academic community with some feeling engagement should take priority over boycotting conferences held in American institutions.
Imran Awan, who is an academic focusing on Islamaphobia, told MEE he refused to attend a conference in America following Trump’s ban.
READ: Muslim travel ban: Why I refuse to go to America
Having sent his apologies to the conference organisers in America, Awan was sent a reply expressing sadness about his decision.
In the email, the organisers wrote: “If we are to overcome the mindset that led to these orders and policies, we will need to assemble the brightest mind we can find.”
The organisers also said: “I think you can do far greater damage to these policies and others that limit the rights of people throughout the world by joining us than by staying home.”
El-Nany responded to these criticisms by reiterating that the “boycott only applies to international academic conferences, not to activist organising events and other solidarity work and travel.”
Harvard president slams ban
On Friday afternoon Harvard University President Drew Faust denounced Donald Trump’s executive order, noting that almost half of Harvard’s deans are immigrants from countries including Iran.
In a letter to students published on Sunday, Faust wrote that the new travel restrictions “are already posing barriers to scholars and students” trying to enter the US while deterring others from travelling abroad because they are “fearful about their ability to return,” she wrote.
At least two people from Harvard have already been blocked from returning to the US, the Harvard Crimson reported.
Iranian engineering students have also faced heavy restrictions whilst studying in the US after sanctions imposed on Iran because of its nuclear programme prevented them from studying subjects related to nuclear power.
(Text of Letter w/ 4,500 Signatures)
In Solidarity with People Affected by the ‘Muslim Ban’: Call for an Academic Boycott of International Conferences held in the US
On 27 January 2017, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order putting in place a 90-day ban that denies US entry to citizens from seven Muslim majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia. So far, the ban includes dual nationals, current visa, and green card holders, and is affecting those born in these countries while not holding citizenship of them. The Order also suspends the admittance of all refugees to the US for a period of 120 days and terminates indefinitely all refugee admissions from Syria. There are indications that the Order could be extended to include other Muslim majority countries.
The Order has affected people with residence rights in the US, as well as those with rights of entry and stay. Some of those affected are fleeing violence and persecution, and have been waiting for years for resettlement in the US as refugees. Others are effectively trapped in the US, having cancelled planned travel for fear that they will be barred from returning. The order institutionalises racism, and fosters an environment in which people racialised as Muslim are vulnerable to ongoing and intensifying acts of violence and hatred.
Among those affected by the Order are academics and students who are unable to participate in conferences and the free communication of ideas. We the undersigned take action in solidarity with those affected by Trump’s Executive Order by pledging not to attend international conferences in the US while the ban persists. We question the intellectual integrity of these spaces and the dialogues they are designed to encourage while Muslim colleagues are explicitly excluded from them.
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As of 31 January 2017, 21.00 GMT the letter has 4500+ signatures.