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What should STEM’s role be in opposing Trump’s policies?

by AprilSix Proof

Trump_Protest_Washington,_D.C._-_July_9,_2015This is a personal blog by Tom Harvey, any questions relating to it can be sent to tom.harvey@aprilsixproof.com

We’re witnessing a turbulent time in the world of American politics. Donald Trump’s presidency is now in full swing and he is getting to work on implementing the policies he promised on the campaign trail, signing executive orders from attempting to weaken the Affordable Care Act to building his infamous wall on the Mexican border.

One of these policies in particular has sent shockwaves across the world over the past week. Last Thursday it was announced that the U.S.A would stop refugee admissions and temporarily bar people from seven Muslim-majority countries. The ban has caused havoc around the globe, from people being held in airports through to mass protests taking place in several countries. Needless to say, this policy is ruffling some feathers.

So, what should we in the STEM sector make of this decision by America’s Commander in Chief and what can we do to respond?

Well, despite the obvious legal and moral implications of implementing such a ban, we should never forget the huge contribution the Muslim world has made, and continues to make, to STEM.. Look at the history. It was Avincenna in 1025 AD who produced the “Canon of Medicine”, which was regarded as the core medical text in Europe for centuries, while inventor Al-Jazari (1136-1206 AD) has been described as the “father of robotics” due to his pioneering work in advancing the technology, inventing devices which are present in almost every machine today.

It is not just in the past where we find Muslim STEM pioneers; with huge contributions to the sector made in recent times as well. Just last year we lost Ahmed Zewail, who in 1999 won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his studies of the transition states of chemical reactions using femtosecond spectroscopy.

Modern science, technology, engineering and mathematics would not be what it is today without the contribution from Muslim people and it appears that those in the sector realise this and are taking action. Following Trump’s executive order, Reed Hastings, chief executive of Netflix called the move “so un-American it pains us all”, while the CEO of storage provider Box has written an article highlighting his dismay at the decision.

These statements from such high-profile individuals in the sector are just a couple of examples of how those in STEM feel about the ban – the legislation is unwarranted and can have a damaging effect on developments within our society. If the United States is to continue down this path, this could prevent organisations gaining access to highly qualified staff to fill positions within their business, while also denying the country as a whole the potential to find the next great inventor. After all, Steve Jobs’ biological father was a Syrian migrant, a nation whose people are directly affected by this decision.

All of us in the industry across the world should follow suit and stand against this executive order. We are already seeing the STEM sector mobilise against Trump’s policies, with scientists set to march on the White House in an attempt to force the President to recognise climate change. However, we should be marching for more than this. We must unite and defend our sector, and that is about more than just climate change denial. Whether its accusations of fake news, the building of walls, or halting of immigration, these will affect all of us and the STEM sector must work to show how these policies are wrong and need to be fought against.