South Asian Students Alliance and Muslim-cultural Students Association host journalist Mehdi Hasan


Yunkyo Kim/The Daily Northwestern

Journalist and political commentator Mehdi Hasan speaks about global Islamophobia during a co-sponsored SASA and McSA event.

Sammi Boas, Reporter

British journalist and political commentator Mehdi Hasan discussed global Islamophobia this Thursday at a speakers event co-sponsored by South Asian Students Alliance and Muslim-cultural Students Association

Hasan spoke about Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi’s passing of the Citizenship Amendment Bill in late 2019. The restrictive measure prohibits Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan from gaining citizenship in India. The bill has been met with protest, resulting in violence toward Muslim protestors by Hindu mobs.

The protests have occurred for months, including during President Donald Trump’s visit to New Delhi in late February. Over 30 people died and more than 200 were injured during three days of riots.

“Trump and Modi both have a serious problem with Muslims living in their countries as minorities,” Hasan said.

SASA and McSA co-sponsored Hasan to speak at Northwestern because he represented the identities and communities of both student groups, McSA co-presidents and Weinberg seniors Ahmad Keshk and Abdur Qureshi said.

Qureshi said the co-sponsored events between the two groups are typically more fun and social, but the timeliness and severity of what’s happening in India can’t be ignored.

“I feel like as organizations, we don’t traditionally take political stances,” Qureshi said. “But we wanted to make something that would have more of an impact. And, speaking of something that happened recently, this was like, literally weeks ago.”

Hasan contrasted Modi and Trump, noting Modi treats Muslim Indians worse than Trump treats Muslim Americans. Modi’s second term in office has witnessed more Islamaphobic actions, leading to speculations for what Trump’s potential second term could look like, he said — especially considering the two leaders’ recent meeting.

Modi’s Hindu Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has persecuted Muslims and plans to build detention camps, which Hasan said is striking considering that India used to be the world’s largest democracy.

Shabeena Alam, 42, heard about the event through a Facebook post. She said that what’s been happening against Muslims in India has been especially concerning to her because she has family there and was born there.

“To see those video clips of people being treated so inhumanely and so brutally and everybody just watching, I just couldn’t believe this was the country that I was born in,” Alam said. “I can’t believe how we are treated because that is our country and it doesn’t feel like our country anymore. And it is just heartbreaking.”

Hasan ended his speech with a call to action, encouraging audience members to speak out. Hasan said resistance against Trump is connected to that against Modi and that India’s Muslims don’t have the aid of democracy to help them.

DePaul student Kulsum Haq, 21, said she is a big fan of Hasan’s and she wished that she had the chance to ask a question about what we can do to make a difference.

“We read about all these depressing things; we read about what’s happening in Syria, in Palestine, India, everywhere,” Haq said. “But after we spread awareness, after we get educated about it, what do we do after that? What can we do to help people?”

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