By Noe Ramos |Staff Writer|
Students, faculty, and community members gathered to discuss “Who Are the Refugees?”, a panel event focused on bringing awareness and attention to the refugee crisis.
The event took place in the College of Education on Feb. 21 and was hosted by the Center of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies and sponsored by the University Diversity Committee, the Department of Communication Studies, the Mediterranean Studies Academy, and the Muslim Students Association.
The key points discussed in the panel were who were the refugees,
why do they come here, what are some of the challenges that they face, and how do they come the United States.
The three guest speakers at the event were Hussam Ayloush, the Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Greater in Los Angeles, Nahla Kayali, the founder and Executive Director of Access California Services (AccessCal) and co-founder of the Refugee Forum of Southern California, and Ramla Sahid, the Executive Director of Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans (PANA) in San Diego.
Each speaker discussed individual topics such as the amount refugees we have taken in the past based on how many we take in now, the idea of Islamophobia, and how it affects many Americans’ perception and attitude towards Muslims.
In addition, there was talk about organizations, such as PANA, that assist refugees when coming to the United States.
Professor Ahlam Muhtaseb, Communication Studies professor and a member of several activist groups, had reached out to the speakers to present at this event.
“I wanted this panel to provide an in-depth view of this issue and to understand indefinitely where they come from and why they come,” Muhtaseb said.
It had taken preparation since last year for Muhtaseb to put this together. Luckily Muhtaseb had known two of the speakers already.
Muhtaseb is an activist of several groups in San Diego and wanted to find a speaker from the area, which resulted in Muhtaseb receiving a recommendation for Sahid from PANA.
“She had a personal experience growing up, she knew all the challenges. I thought that was very interesting to have someone that is an advocate, but at the same time who lived the experience, to speak from the heart,” Muhtaseb said.
According to Muhtaseb, there was an unprecedented amount of interest in the panel.
She had received emails from professors, as well as so many people from the community that she had to decline some requests, leading to the event being live streamed as the solution for those who could not attend the event.
There was a high volume of students that attended this event, some with a pre-conceived notion about the event and others lack knowledge but looking to learn more and gain interest in the event.
“I thought the three speakers were very informative […] I especially enjoyed Ramla because I thought that I could connect with her and what she represents,” said student Nancy Ruedas.
Another student, Allan Ortez, was curious about what topics the panelists would present.
“It was beneficial for understanding things about refugees and immigrants and how they come to the United States,” said Ortez.
With this event, the organizers intended to spread awareness, increase understanding, and promote interest in the current refugee situation, especially from Muslim-majority countries, in the world today.