Analysis: Students, Muslim community say Chapel Hill is hate crime - The South End: Perspectives

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Analysis: Students, Muslim community say Chapel Hill is hate crime

Community leaders say the hate doesn't end there

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Posted: Friday, February 27, 2015 7:00 am

The loss of the 3 victims from the Chapel Hill Shooting is just one example of a hate crime against Muslims. A Caucasian male shot each of them inside their apartment after making vulgar comments and harassing them about their religious background.

Students have gathered to mourn their loss. Rasha Almulaiki, a Wayne State graduate, said she takes their deaths as a wake up call that she could have easily been in their place.

“This hit home; they look like me, they look like my siblings, they look like someone who I never thought would be a victim,” Almulaiki said. “We grew up with this mentality that bad things don’t happen to good people and that’s just not true. It’s a wake up call that this could very well happen to me or anyone else.”

Although most of the students had not met the victims personally, some said they felt close to the victims because they endure hate and racism as a part of their everyday lives just like the victims.

“Hate crimes have dramatically increased recently,” said Shaffwan Ahmed, Take on Hate communications specialist and WSU graduate. “It’s steady occurring and I’ve experienced it personally. I’ve seen it with my own eyes and a lot of people don’t know about it, because they’ve never walked in our shoes. It’s an issue that needs to be addressed.”

These Islamaphobic hate crimes didn’t only begin and end with this shooting, they are still continuing.  Recently two Muslim schools were attacked. One school in Houston was burned down and the other in Rhode Island was vandalized this month alone. In a more local incident, an Arab-American man from Dearborn was assaulted and harassed at a Kroger.

Almulaiki believes these preconceived views of Islam have changed how she goes about her daily life as someone who wears a headscarf.

“It’s sad that I’m seen before I am heard. Sometimes my hijab speaks for me and I become this political symbol.” Almulaiki said.  “I came into college stereotyped as someone illiterate, oppressed and unintelligent, because I wear a hijab. That pushed me even more and I’m sure that’s something that Razan and Yusor went through as students as well.”

The hijab, a headscarf that Muslim women wear in front of men, is considered to be an important part of modesty and empowerment in Islam.

 “I feel like I constantly have to over-compensate for my hijab by showing just how ‘American’ I am and speaking eloquently to show that I’m not a threat. I have a need to smile more so that others can understand I’m not oppressed and I’m not threatening,” Almulaiki said.

Communications director of Michigan Muslim Community Council, Sumaiya Ahmed, relates in a similar way.

“Just because I don’t wear the hijab, doesn’t mean I don’t get the feeling that I don’t feel heard and that I don’t feel like people look at me differently. When people look at me, I still feel like they’re looking at me as an Muslim-American woman,” Ahmed said.

WSU Sophomore, Maisha Rahman believes that a step to a more accepting society and avoiding a repeated tragedy as done in Chapel Hill, is being respectful of others beliefs and religious backgrounds.

“We need a change in collective thought. Racist jokes and religious jokes should not be happening. People should be able to walk around and be comfortable with their faith. This needs to be a change that’s a shift and is long lasting,” Rahman said.

Organizations like Take On Hate have been working with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and American Civil Liberties Union to bring attention to these issues of racism and religious intolerance. Striving to change policies, this organization is taking action by campaigning and signing an online petition in honor of the Chapel Hill victims. 

“What happened in [Chapel Hill] cannot happen again. Not two months later, when we kind of forget about this,” Rahman said. “We can’t forget about it, because we can’t let it happen again.”

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