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To Be Muslim On Campus

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To Be Muslim On Campus

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By Yasmin Merchant


Some Muslim students fear for their safety in New York City as they see a culture of Islamophobia growing.

In early September, New York witnessed a series of Islamophobic attacks — mostly against women. In Brooklyn, two Muslim mothers were pushing their children in strollers when they were attacked by a woman telling them to “get the **** out of America ****.” Days later, a man set fire to a Scottish Muslim tourist’s clothes while she was shopping on Fifth Avenue.

For some Muslim students on campus, the fear is, especially for those who are more visibly affiliated with the religion by wearing garments.
“Whenever there was an attack, I’d be afraid that if I go downtown, I may be a victim of a hate crime,” said Muslim student Raaheela Yusuf, FCRH ’20, who wears a hijab, in an interview with The Fordham Ram. “My mother would always tell me to be careful and to be aware of my surroundings.” She remembers a friend who began wearing a hijab in high school, and the extra measures her friend went to keep herself safe. “She has been carrying around pepper spray with her everywhere she goes,” Yusuf said.

For Sumaiya Islam, FCRH ’19, formerly a practicing Muslim who donned a hijab, the question whether to wear it at Ground Zero when she went to visit with her family was obvious. “I was scared of hate that I would receive because of it,” she said.

Recent events have only exacerbated her anxiety.

“When I found out about the woman whose hijab had been set on fire on Fifth Ave, I felt sick,” Islam said. Even though Islam herself is no longer practices her faith, she fears discrimination and how it could affect her and her family. “That could’ve been my mom, my friends, any of my relatives or people I know,” Islam said.

Joan Cavanagh, director of Interfaith Ministry, said this fear is common and justified. “Whenever there is an attack perpetrated by a Muslim, the women who wear hijabs have told me in the past they have gotten some comments which have been uncomfortable,” she said.

Comments made by presidential candidate Donald Trump cause Yusuf to feel uneasy, particularly after his call for a ban on Muslims entering America.

“One of my biggest fears is that [Trump] will become president,” Yusuf said. “I’m afraid that he will find a way to kick us out and we will have nowhere to go. We will become like the refugees that no one wants.”

Islam wants to perpetuate knowledge about her former religion and dispel the notion that it is intrinsically associated with ISIS.

“I wish people weren’t so hateful and ignorant,” Islam said.

Before 9/11, Muslims were one of the least targeted religious groups in America. According to the FBI’s annual hate crimes report, hate crimes targeting Muslims jumped 1,600 percent from 2000 to 2001. Over a decade after 9/11, hate crimes against Muslims are still five times more common than they were before 9/11.

Education, Cavanagh said, is key in fighting Islamophobia. “This election and some of the things that are said by some of the candidates have elevated the necessity for education.”

Part of Cavanagh and the MSA’s efforts to encourage conversation include an Eid celebration, also known as the Sacrifice Feast at 7 p.m. in the McGinley Ballroom on Sept. 30. The event will include an explanation about what Eid represents to Muslims and how it connects it to Christianity and Judaism.

Amira Admani, GSB ’19, a member of the MSA, said though she fears for her safety, she believes the university is a safe space for her.

“Living in a society of western culture as a Muslim has become more fearful each day,” she said. “I know that I am safe within the gates of Fordham University, a school where I recognize vast diversity and a sense of acceptance amongst those who are different in ethnicity, religion and culture.”


6 Responses to “To Be Muslim On Campus”

  1. Ben Arisen (@BrightLeaf88) on September 30th, 2016 5:13 pm

    Notice that each example of an uptick in hatred toward Muslims has preceded a Muslim terror attack– not the other way around. The fact that Muslims were one of the least targeted groups in America before 9/11, and the fact that general unease towards Muslims increases every time another Muslim kills more people, proves that in this conflict one group is clearly the aggressor and the other group is simply retaliating. Of course, I don’t endorse hate crimes against random Muslims just walking around and minding their own business, as it is definitely an immature and misdirected form of retaliation, but the violence committed by actors on both sides still cannot be equivocated. It is problematic that a little over a week after dozens of Americans were injured in another series of awful and unprovoked terror attacks, carried out right here in our own city in the name of radical Islam, we must once again be reminded that the real victims are Muslims, because now people will like them less. More problematic still is the fact that articles like this, highlighting the fear that Muslims now experience living in Western society, are taken to be heroic exposures of injustice; while anyone who dares discuss the fears that Westerners experience in the face of repeated terror attacks by Muslims from a specific place is denounced as a fearmongering, hateful racist.

    If radical Islamic terror were to end tomorrow, then “Islamophobia” in the West would end along with it. If everyone in the West were to become a shining paragon of tolerance tomorrow, Islamic terror would probably increase. That is the real difference.

  2. Sarah on September 30th, 2016 6:22 pm

    I love comments like this pretending like you’re not Islamophobic and you’re just “being logical.” Muslims weren’t targeted before 9/12 because most Americans barely knew they existed. Most of the Muslims targeted for hate crimes in the US are peaceful, but you’re saying it’s justified because people are scared after terrorist attacks? So with that logic, when the US government bombs the shit out of the Middle East killing civilians, including children, are they allowed to attack innocent Americans? If someone gets attacked by a member of a certain race, does that give them the right to be bigoted toward that race forever? No. Moron.

  3. Sarah on September 30th, 2016 6:24 pm

    9/11 gdi that’s a terrible typo and it won’t let me edit. And also your claim that Islamophobia would stop if terrorist attacks stopped is idiotic. People aren’t going to stop being racist.

  4. Ben Arisen (@BrightLeaf88) on September 30th, 2016 7:35 pm

    No, I did not say hate crimes against innocent peaceful Muslims are justified. My point is that we need to address the terrorism being committed by radical Islam before pointing fingers at Americans who feel victimized and afraid and lash out as a result. Your comment contains a great parallel: when the US government “bombs the shit out of the Middle East killing civilians, including children.” When Middle Eastern people whose cities have been bombed by the US government form negative feelings about Americans as a result of that, and some innocent American is attacked somewhere, I doubt your first reaction would be to call it a hate crime and decry the widespread Ameriphobia in the Middle East, even though they shouldn’t be “allowed” to do that. The more reasonable reaction, and the one I have as well, is to condemn the United States for its aggressive and disgusting interventionist actions that created the anti-American sentiment in the ME in the first place. In fact, that sentiment is pretty commonplace among people who are aware of the situation, but I’m not sure I’ve ever read an article sympathizing with innocent Americans who are afraid to walk around in Afghanistan because the people there are just so ignorant and hateful. Such a thing would be ridiculous. But when the roles are reversed, Americans are “islamophobic” and “bigoted” for forming any emotional resistance to ideologies whose radical supporters bomb their communities, and the anti-Muslim reaction is the real evil. It is a double standard that is anti-Western at its core.

  5. Ben Arisen (@BrightLeaf88) on September 30th, 2016 8:02 pm

    And as for your other comment: Why is it idiotic to think that anti-Muslim sentiment would die down if people stopped having a reason to be anti-Muslim? People generally don’t just hate other religions for no reason. Just look at Buddhism and Hinduism, two other religions with lots of adherents in the US (also often people with dark skin, no less): yet there aren’t even words to describe hating them.
    Oh, and lastly, (also to that other poster) your accusations of racism mean nothing to me. I know that’s supposed to be the big zinger that proves your point every time, but it doesn’t even make sense in this context. Islam is not a race, it is an ideology. If you think that because most Muslims are brown people, then the only reason I could have made up my viewpoints is because I hate brown people, then I’m sorry but you’re really grasping at straws.

  6. Lily on September 30th, 2016 6:33 pm

    “People like them less” read the article. People are getting attacked and killed because of Islamophobia and you’re here downplaying people’s suffering. I’m so tired of ignorant racist Fordham students

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To Be Muslim On Campus