Students and faculty discuss Muslim discrimination, Islamophobia

Amnesty International hosts a panel for faculty members to speak on experiences of discrimination

Maya Lora

Amnesty International hosted its panel on Muslim discrimination in the United States and Europe on Thursday.

The panel included four individuals familiar with the subject of Muslim discrimination either by personal experience or observations made combined with experience abroad: Professor Hiba Assi, Professor Tyler Dickovick, Professor Mohamed Kamara and Teaching Assistant Imad Baazizi.

Two Amnesty International representatives led the panel, asking the panelists questions regarding sensitive topics in the hope of opening up an important dialogue on critical thinking of everyday “Islamophobia.”

The first topic to be addressed was the attitude towards Muslims in the United States post-9/11 and whether or not that incident brought to life or just exacerbated Islamophobic rhetoric within the country.

The panelists addressed several points in relation to the issue, such as how often being suspected of terrorism affects everyday life for peaceful, practicing Muslims.

Kamara revealed that he often gets pulled out of line for “random checks” at airports, something he now has to psychologically prepare for every time he goes to travel. People have even suggested he change his name to avoid future problems.

“It was like an equation–Islam equals terrorism,” Baazizi said. “Muslims died in 9/11, and then there were attacks on Muslims.”

The panel also addressed how wording in the media we consume can subtly craft our opinions on Islam. The panelists pointed out problems in how referring to ISIS as a Muslim terrorist organization instead of a radical one endangers everyday Muslims who have no association to the organization.

“I think ISIS is an attack on Islam itself,” Assi said. “I don’t think they’re Muslims. They don’t speak for me.”

Kamara also addressed the issue of expecting individuals to bear the weight of defending an entire religion.

“I don’t represent Islam,” Kamara said. “I practice Islam, and I represent myself.”

Towards the end of the panel, the moderators opened it up to the audience for questions. Thoughtful questions about the banning of the “burqini” and burqa in France were asked of Assi, who chooses to proudly wear the hijab. A question on the way ISIS misinterprets and twists the sacred Islamic texts was also addressed to the entire panel.

“I feel closer to the issues which were discussed, and I will be more empathetic and engaged with discrimination problems related to the Muslim communities specifically, and to discrimination in general,”

Bogdan Bors, ’17, said. Amnesty International is a non-

profit, nonpartisan organization focused on human rights.

Mohini Tangri, ‘19, formed the W&L branch of the organization in January. She was inspired when she attended an Amnesty International conference that focused on refugee rights in the tumultuous environment of these last few years.

The organization is growing, and Tangri said she is impressed by the level of energy participating members, especially freshmen, have brought to the table.

This panel is part of a larger effort this semester to focus on refugee rights. Many other events and projects are currently being worked on for later in the semester.

Some of these work-in-progress projects include a program called Arts for Amnesty. Arts for Amnesty will include photos documenting the refugee crisis and artistic responses, a letter-writing campaign to legislators, a thought-provoking poster-board with sticky notes in Commons and a trip to DC with select members of the club to speak to congressmen.

“I kind of want people to be upset,” Tangri said. “I want people to be shocked, because often times strong emotions are what prompt people to actually think about deeper issues. When you’re jolted by your values, that’s when people really start to think.”