Muslim students respond to Islamophobia

Students promote dialogue, understanding in face of conflict and tragedy

By: Justin Worthing ~Staff Writer~

Since the Charlie Hebdo attacks, the hashtag #killallmuslims has gained popularity on Twitter, and some Twitter users are claiming that “#killallmuslims is the only viable response” to the attacks. In light of this and similar comments made about Islam in the wake of recent world events and violent acts of terror by radical Islamist groups, Xavier’s Muslim Student Association (MSA) is planning events to alter these sometimes common perceptions of Muslims.

Starting Jan. 23, members of MSA will be displaying posters throughout campus in direct response to #killallmuslims.

“The content (of the posters) is really boring, generic stuff (about ourselves) with a little bit of funny stuff in it,” MSA President Adnan Ilyas said. “For example, mine would say stuff like ‘I don’t like Organic Chemistry,’ or ‘I am a dog person’ — really, really generic claims that people will be able to identify with.”

Members of MSA pose with Chair of Islamic Studies Dr. Waleed El-Ansary (bottom, left) and Riyad Shama (bottom, center right) and Miriam Martinez (bottom, right) from the Institute of Youth and Development Excellence, at the group’s “Islam 101” event, which invited members of the Xavier community to enter into dialogue about Islam

“The point is to show that I’m a normal person and I happen to be Muslim, so why do you want to kill me?” Ilyas said.

MSA will also bring back an event they conducted in previous years known as Hijab for a Moment. On Jan. 22, anyone at Xavier, man or woman, can approach MSA at a table in Gallagher Student Center and try on a hijab or a headscarf traditionally worn by Muslim women and some Muslim men.

Those who try the headscarf can also donate to the local YWCA battered women’s shelter. MSA will also feature informational posters about the shelter and the hijab itself.

Students who want to try a hijab for a day can do so through MSA’s Hijab for a Day event. The date for this event will be announced later.

Throughout the week of Valentine’s Day, MSA will also display excerpts of poetry from famous Muslim poets throughout campus. The event, referred to as For the Love of God, is meant to showcase the influence and richness of Muslim literature.

MSA hopes that these events, along with general discussion on campus about Islam, will promote a more reasonable, more realistic view of Muslims.
“We’re trying to put a familiar face to Islam,” MSA member Savin Mattozzi said. “We feel like a lot of Americans — and many people in this school — might think that it’s a foreign concept… they may only believe what they see (about Islam) in the news, which doesn’t really represent much. So we’re trying to do that. There’s a lot of misconceptions.”

Mattozzi realized the reality of these misconceptions on campus when collecting student questions about Islam for a previous MSA event. Mattozzi, who is not Muslim, noticed a difference in what he was asked compared to questions received by his Muslim friends.

“Some of (the questions I received were about) violence, terrorism and more blunt questions that people were more comfortable asking me because they knew that I was non-Muslim,” Mattozzi said. “That offered what people actually thought.”

Ultimately the members of MSA hope such events will help people realize just how much in common they have with their fellow Muslim students rather than associate them with violence.

“A lot of intolerance that is directed towards Muslims is just because of ignorance,” MSA Vice President Ali Ahmed said. “And it’s really our job to put a familiar face to it and show them that we’re really not like that.”