International students sound off on religion in politics

Emily Wilbur

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has become notorious for making degrading comments regarding Muslim-Americans as part of his campaign platform.
Following the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, last December, he proposed a ban on overseas Muslims entering the U.S. Throughout the campaign trail, Kent State students have been paying attention to the conversation.

Yousof Mousa, a junior biology major, holds the devotion chair in the Muslim Students’ Association board at Kent State.

Mousa first came to the U.S. in 2006 for a short time before traveling back to his home country of Palestine, and has since returned to the U.S., where he’s lived for the past five years. 

When talking about the upcoming presidential election, Mousa said the Muslim community should participate more in politics.

“If you are not a part of the conversation, the conversation starts to be about you,” Mousa said. “We should lead by example. If there is hate, we should show love. If there is violence, we should show peace.”

Mousa has acknowledged the statements Trump has made about terrorism surrounding Muslims, but questions what he means by them.

“Trump said he wants Muslims to watch for terroristic activity around them,” Mousa said. “Any American should watch for that kind of activity, so is he saying all Muslims have terror in them?”

Mousa said if a person researches the number of Muslims killed by ISIS, they would be shocked. Muslims are being killed by ISIS every day, he said. 

“I wouldn’t call ISIS Muslims,” Mousa said.

Keeping the statements Trump has made in regards to the Muslim community in mind, Mousa said he is inclined to support the opposing party.

“If we have to choose between (Democratic presidential nominee) Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, I choose Hillary,” Mousa said.

Poria Jabbari, a sophomore biology major, was raised in a Muslim household in Iran. He spent 17 years in the Middle Eastern country before coming to the U.S. during high school.

Now an atheist, he doesn’t quite hold the beliefs reflective of his upbringing.

Jabbari said that if more of the population was educated on all religions and were open about it, then politics would take a different turn. One of the problems in the U.S., he said, is political correctness.

“If I want to talk against Islam, I would look bad because I was born and raised in a Muslim country,” Jabbari said. “It’s something that we can’t discuss on either side because it might offend someone.”

Jabbari said it seems the presidential candidates are using religion and race as a tool.

“Donald Trump just uses religion to spread fear in people’s’ heads,” he said. ”(He) says ‘We must ban Muslims.’”

Jabbari said the truth is that there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. He posed the question of whether (Trump is) saying that one-third of the world are terrorists?”

Due to not being an American citizen, Jabbari is not able to vote in the upcoming election. But if he were able to, he said he would have to vote for Clinton.

Issam Bajwa, a junior accounting major, came to the U.S. last year from Pakistan. Bajwa said being a Muslim is no different than being of any other religion or ethnicity when watching the presidential election, in the sense that it is not his color or creed that makes a difference.

“Looking at volatility of the political views of Trump mainly just makes me worry about the fact that so many people in a country that was built on good values of humanity and freedom could be supporting such radical ideas,” Bajwa said.

With platforms expressing concern about terrorists, Bajwa said he feels terrorism shouldn’t be a brand associated to a religion. Coming from a third-world country — where a civil war has been going on against the Taliban ever since 9/11 — Bajwa has come to believe that all terrorism in the world is funded by external players as a means of proxy-warfare.

“I feel that with Trump being the only other option than Hillary, he makes Hillary actually look good,” Bajwa said. “The candidates of this election degrade the image of America in the eyes of foreigners such as myself.”

In the 2000 election, prior to 9/11, 78 percent of Muslim-American voters voted Republican, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

According to the Pew Research Center, only 11 percent of Muslim Americans now lean toward the Republican Party.

Emily Wilbur is a religion reporter, contact her at [email protected]