ORONO, Maine — In a show of solidarity that brought tears to some from the area’s Muslim community, more than 200 people showed up at the Islamic Center of Maine Friday night to write letters to Maine’s congressional delegation protesting President Donald Trump’s executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority nations.
And that was just in the first half of the two-hour event, which took place at the center’s facility on Park Street. People from as far as Blue Hill, Newport and Augusta came to express their feelings in writing to Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and Rep. Bruce Poliquin.
Dina Yacoubagha, who heads the center’s education committee, was moved to tears by the response to Trump’s order from the University of Maine, which offered guidance and legal advice for students and staff and from the larger community.
“It was an amazing message of support for Muslim students on campus and for the community in town,” she said. “This touches everyone’s life, [and] I feel this includes everybody in the bigger community as well.”
Yacoubagha said that earlier this week, she also received an email from one of her son’s teachers at Bangor High School.
“It’s a message of tolerance, of peace, of acceptance. It makes me emotional. I just feel I want to cry,” said Yacoubagha, who came to the United States from Syria.
“No one would leave home if they had a choice,” she said of those leaving her former homeland. “Those people have nothing left for them. No homes, no jobs, no nothing, no schools. Everything is destroyed.
“All they want to do is to work hard and to establish a safe and peaceful environment for their kids to have a future. They are not terrorists. They are not here to attack people. They are very peaceful. All they are looking for is to be safe,” she said.
Faizon Ahmad, 9, of Bangor was one of the youngest at the Orono event to oppose the ban.
“I don’t like the Muslim ban because Muslims are here for education. They are not terrorists,” he said.
Orono resident Elizabeth Johns, who attended the event with her husband, John Maddaus, a UMaine education professor, said she was outaged by the executive order.
“I think that the president’s executive order is in no way justified and is likely to have the opposite effect of what it is supposed to accomplish,” she said. “This is going to create ill will for the U.S. in parts of the world. It won’t make us secure [and could result in] damage to our image and reputation abroad.”
Her husband agreed.
“Immigration bans are blanket rejections of people from entire countries with no consideration of who they are as individuals or what their individual circumstance might be,” Maddaus said.
“I’ve had numerous Muslim students, some of whom are American, some of whom are refugees and some of whom are international students, and I think that these are incredibly wonderful people as I’ve gotten to know them,” he said.
“They are not terrorists. They are not scary. They are not going to do anybody any harm. They are just as opposed to terrorism as any American would be,” he said. “And to paint them all as potential terrorists is just grossly unfair, and there is no evidence to support it in the cases of people I know. It’s quite the contrary.”