FRIDAY, FEB. 26 — Islamophobia is a hot-button issue in the U.S. right now, with presidential contenders seriously discussing bans on Muslim non-citizens from entering the country. Last week, a group of MSU groups brought the issue to campus.

The Office for International Students and Scholars, in partnership with the Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives, the Office of Undergraduate Education and Residence Education and Housing Services, hosted a webinar on Islamophobia on Feb. 17.

The webinar, held in the MSU Union Ballroom, featured guest speakers Amer Ahmad, associate director of multi-ethnic student affairs at the University of Michigan and intercultural diversity consultant, and Farzana Nayani, cross-cultural trainer and community educator.

“Islamophobia is an exaggerated fear, hatred and hostility toward Islam and Muslims that is perpetuated by negative stereotypes resulting in bias, discrimination and the marginalization and exclusion of Muslims from social, political and civic life,” Nayani said.

The webinar specifically addressed the problem of Islamophobia, what contributes to its persistence, and the evolving realities for Muslim students, staff and faculty on campus.

“Micro-aggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership,” Nayani said.

The speakers suggested strategies for improving safety and inclusion, including raising awareness that anti-Muslim bias is a form of racism, better training for faculty and administrators on what constitute Islamophobia, campus events addressing anti-Muslim prejudice, ensuring curricula are free from bias and developing appropriate responses to support victims of Islamophobia.

The webinar was followed by a discussion facilitated by Imam Sohail Chaudhry from the Islamic Center of East Lansing and Dr. Janine Sinno Janoudi from the Ingham County Health Department.

Sohail gave an overview on Islam, focusing on what Islam is and what the religion stands for.

“People have all kinds of fears of Muslims,” he said. “It is important to know who we are, what we follow, what our beliefs are, what the commonalities are between us and some of the other religions.”