Oxford Muslim groups, along with the University’s Chancellor, students and senior academics, have joined a worldwide condemnation of Donald Trump’s executive order signed last Friday banning immigration to the US from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Mirroring widespread protests across the UK, 2,500 people took to the streets in Oxford on Monday night.
This was followed by another protest on Wednesday against Trump’s immigration policy and Theresa May’s refusal to openly condemn his travel ban.
The “diversity and inclusivity” displayed by this week’s protests were praised by the President of the Oxford University Islamic Society.
Younes Saidani commented: “We at the Oxford University Islamic Society were proud to come together with local community groups to oppose the Muslim Ban. At this time it is vital that solidarity is shown with the Muslim Community, and Oxford responded to the call in unprecedented numbers.
“We’d like to thank everyone who turned up, who stood for more diversity and inclusivity, and against walls, bans and hate.”
Chancellor of Oxford University Lord Patten exclusively told Cherwell: “On the seal of the United States itsays ‘E pluribus unum’ – Out of Many, One. This serves as a reminder that America was founded to create a home for refugees fleeing the mosthorrible tragedies around the world.
It is a wonderful country created out of diversity and what this appalling travel ban does is spit in the face of that diversity. It raises the deepest anxieties for the coming months and it sheds light on atrocities to come.
The best aspects of American society are being tested. I am very proud of the fact that Oxford students have made their voices heard.”
At the protest on Monday, thousands of people assembled around Carfax Tower, before marching down the High Street. There were chants of “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA” and “Theresa May, hear us shout, Muslims in, racists out”.
The protest gained support from organisations across Oxford. Oxford Student’s Refugee Campaign, which says it seeks to “turn Oxford into a safe haven for refugee students” by increasing university funding for asylum seekers, said: “Trump’s policies go in the opposite way, making it difficult for great universities in the U.S. to offer similar programmes.
“To appease the effects, universities outside the US should step up and support the great scholars Trump is turning down. It is in moments like these that grass roots campaigns like ours become even more important. Trump’s policy on refugees rejects the very spirit of a country built on the hard work and knowledge of refugees: from the early Pilgrims to the genius of Einstein”.
Trump’s ban triggered protests in major towns and cities across the UK, with a further ‘Day of Action against Trump’ is planned to take place in Oxford on 20 February. In the US, activists gathered at airports to demand authorities release detained nationals from the affected countries.
A spokesperson for the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies told Cherwell: “One of the fundamental objectives of this Centre is to encourage dialogue between people from different cultures and traditions and to bring them together in an atmosphere of cooperation and mutual respect. Any actions that make this more difficult, or run counter to the whole principle, are obviously a matter of great concern.
“The humanitarian implications, and unfairness involved in the treatment of so many individuals, are also deeply worrying.”
Further to their president’s comments, The Oxford University Islamic Society, which represents over 800 students, said it was “deeply concerned” about the implication of Trump’s executive order on its members.
The group told Cherwell: “It affects some of our members, who have dual-passports, or simply the wrong nationality. For no fault of their own, their travel, study and career plans have been thrown into doubt at the stroke of a pen. Muslims already worry about travel to the United States, and this can only add to the anxiety and precarity of the experience.”
They described the policy as “symptomatic of a wider trend across the West,” saying: “Not only has there been a huge spike in Islamophobic hate incidents since Brexit , but a raft of measures such as Prevent – implemented by the University here in Oxford – have been designed to curtail Muslim rights. We call for solidarity with Muslim communities around the world at this time.”
Solidarity against Trump’s policy has also been expressed by the Jewish Society, who told Cherwell: “Whilst the timing of the announcement, being on Holocaust Memorial Day is unfortunate and misguided, it is important that this does not distract from the main issue here. It is our values, both Jewish and secular, which instill in us a drive to accept refugees and form a religiously tolerant society. We stand in solidarity with Muslims, refugees and others who are being oppressed as a result of this policy.”
An online petition calling for the state visit of Donald Trump to the UK to be banned has attracted over a million signatures.
The protests gained support from a range of groups and political societies. One demonstrator held a sign reading “Oxford Conservatives against Trump’s Muslim Ban”, with “Even We’re Protesting” written on the reverse.
OUCA declined Cherwell’s request for comment.
Oxford University Labour Club (OULC) told Cherwell they were “very proud” of Wednesday’s protest, which was organised by an OULC member. They said: “so many people came to show their solidarity in opposing the normalisation of Trump’s racist politics.”