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UA Muslim community wants more respect

By Ahmad Saad Nasim
Arizona Daily Wildcat
February 11, 1999
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To the editor,

Recently at the University of Arizona there has been a lot of discrimination, harassment, and mocking of the Muslim student community. Muslim students at the University of Arizona do not have a strong force advocating their rights in the city of Tucson.

As many know, the Muslims in the West are shown as terrorists, enemies of the U.S. in many movies. Muslim students at the UA have faced many attacks.

Here is a list of a few:

1. Muslim women in the Math Annex in 1996-97 year were mocked by graduate TA's.

2. Certain tutors for Accounting 200 labs in 1997-98 were called "towel heads."

3. Certain Muslims were scolded for praying in the Student Union in a secluded area during their breaks.

4. U of A volunteers at the UMC were shouted at by some workers for praying in the hospital chapel. The chapel is meant for all people in the hospital, not just people of one religion.

5. Lastly, the UAPD/TPD harassed one of my good friends whose name I will not disclose until he or she speaks! There was a burglary reported by the Architecture building. This person happened to be the only black person in the area! The person was stopped by four white police officers, shoved down, searched, and found clean! A few minutes later, the police saw the books the person had. They were about Islam and religious studies. At the moment of finding out that the person was a Muslim, one of the cops asked, "So do you have a hand grenade as well with these books?"

Imagine our own police officers at the UA who show off as being nationally accredited are handicapped as a bunch of ignorant fools.

Of course, not all UAPD officers are like this. Brian Seastone the PR person for the UAPD has been a good friend, but the whole UAPD needs some sort of clean up! Either my friend is lying or the UAPD needs some diversity training!

The truth: my friend is not a liar, and the UAPD has yet to speak. A letter has been given to them and President Likins, and there has been no reply.

So on the behalf of the Muslim Students Association and many other folks who have felt some sort of discrimination, I would like to say from now on there will be direct protests, letters mailed to Governor Hull, and the Muslim Student Association will protest every single attack at the Muslim community as well as others.

The witnesses of the cases mentioned above will probably not speak because they feel the university might use some red tape to kick them out of the university. Since many are international students, they keep their mouths shut and not protest.

Muslims in America are like most of the African Americans of the 1950s. Consider that this is Black History Month.

A few days ago, Muslims celebrated the end of Ramadan during the MLK holiday. Before the prayer, Tucson Muslims chanted the Takbeerah or the " Allah is great prayer. The one who forgives, blesses and is the most merciful."

It was at Reid Park, and we could hear on the opposite side of the park people singing, "We shall overcome!" The park also had an MLK day celebration.

After the prayer and during our sermon of the Eid Prayer, we could hear the American national anthem. Since the Gulf War, I have lived in this country as a Muslim and as an American. Eid Day, also MLK day, was really symbolic for all Muslim Americans. We are finally part of the melting pot; however, we are still hated, harassed, and insulted each time we want a chance to be a part of the American dream.

I am not going to give up on the dream promised to me and to my friends as well.

Of all the people in the Tucson community, Jewish students and businesses have been very friendly with the Muslim community. This summer there were discussions of having a dialogue and get-togethers between Muslim and Jewish students. If Hillel and Islamic Center of Tucson can reach an understanding, so can the rest.

The media has stretched so much hatred between our communities that both sides forget that Jews and Muslims believe, worship, and seek forgiveness and mercy from the same God.

It is time we talk back to the UA's administration, residence life, college of business, UMC, UAPD, math department and many others yet to attack us and other minorities. We don't need any apologies. All we need is for the future of the UA community to recognize us as humans as well.

Ahmad Saad Nasim
President, Muslim Students Association;
German studies and molecular and cellular biology junior