Being stared at. Being uncomfortable all the time. Feeling threatened by the world around. These are the things Safiah Amirah Mohd Azahan, a student majoring in Quantitative Economics feel being a Muslim in America. She had faced several challenges while studying here, but have gotten a big support from the community here at Drake University.
Islamophobia is one of the biggest issues happening and being discussed today. The term means the prejudice fixed against Islam. Some people view Muslims as terrorists that cause violence in the name of God.
Outside of Drake, Azahan was glared by an army veteran while getting her latte at a coffee shop. She did not know what to do but avoid eye contact. Besides that, while on her way to Ames, a man showed a finger to her with the look of disgust.
Her bad experience did not just end off campus.
“There was this one time, I noticed a guy was recording me and my friends at the Quad Creek Café,” Azahan said. “We were wearing hijab, so he recorded us walking from our table to the point where we got our meal. I don’t know why he filmed us. I felt really scared and unsafe.”
After the incident, she directly contacted Tony Tyler, the Director of Student Management, Equity and Inclusion. He advises and connects with multicultural organizations by once every two weeks in a meeting called the Unity Roundtable. Tyler is the one in student life that deals with anything regarding cultural issues or events.
Azahan told him what happened, but there was nothing he could do as there were not enough details about the man filming her. She did not saw his face clearly. What Tyler did was he reached out to the Muslim Students Association and asked them if there were other students with similar cases. It turned out that Azahan was the only person who had these kinds of incidents.
“The best we could do was connect with the students who might be most affected and give them the support we could,” Tyler said.
About a year and a half ago, Drake had a Campus Climate which they did a large survey of students and faculties on their experience at Drake. They pulled out the data received and found that students who had different cultural background did have a tougher time here, including Muslim students.
“To deal with this problem, my position was created,” Tyler said. “MSA also brought up concerns about a praying space on campus and having access to that. So we created a prayer room in downstairs Olmsted. So those two ways speak to support the students more. We want to make sure they feel welcomed.”
People fear in what they do not know or understand, said Kimberly Taylor, a senior in Marketing major. Some people are just actually curious about what Islam is.
Taylor had only heard and saw views on Muslims on the media like stories about ISIS, Syrian refugees and global terrorisms. These coverages did scare her, but not to an extent of generalizing all Muslims as terrorists.
“I think…talking about what Islamic culture holds, people don’t know much about it,” Taylor said. “I mean…Honestly I get confused on what it entails. You hear Islamophobia used a lot, but you don’t actually know what it means. So I think having an event or just really showcasing what is Islam would be great.”