Donald Trump has made it clear that when it comes to foreign affairs, America comes first. But for a group of Muslim women students at colleges across the United States, helping those abroad is not only okay — it’s a responsibility.
The women are part of the Books Not Bombs campaign, an initiative organized by Students Organize for Syria and calls on universities to join the IIE Syria Consortium to help Syrian refugees access higher education. The campaign launched last year, before Trump’s ban on travel from six Muslim-majority countries was introduced, but since the first version of that executive order took effect, Books Not Bombs organizers — who are primarily Muslim women — have been ramping up their efforts.
Across the nation, more than 18,000 students have gotten involved with Books Not Bombs since its inception — signing petitions, holding protests, and staging silent demonstrations — and have helped launch programs expanding access to education for immigrants and refugees.
At Barnard College in New York, organizers set up a scholarship program for displaced women. University of Southern California students created an emergency fund for refugee students affected by the travel ban. And Books Not Bombs activists around the country have lobbied their administrations to speak out and defend immigrant student populations.
“Education is a human right,” said Reem Karmouta, a Books Not Bombs organizer at UCLA who got involved in the campaign after seeing a Facebook page for the group at another school. “Here in the United States, we tend to take our education for granted. We are surrounded by amazing institutions and opportunities that many would die for.”
She told HelloGiggles, “Books Not Bombs hopes to assist in providing equal opportunity for education for all, especially those, like Syrian refugees, who can no longer access institutes of higher education [in their home countries due to conflict].”
The irony of Muslim women leading this charge is not lost on Karmouta, who feels like a stranger in her own country.
“[The travel ban] made me feel hated and unwelcome in the place I love most, the place I call home,” she said. “I understand the struggles that come with being different, with being a minority.”
Still, she sees Books Not Bombs as a way to fight for a better future.
Bringing the American dream to the rest of the world — it doesn’t get any more patriotic than that.