DU’s Inclusive Excellence promotes acceptance towards Muslim students in the wake of terrorism

This past November, more than 120 people were killed and hundreds more were injured in a series of attacks of unprecedented scale by the terrorist group, ISIS. The fear that followed this violence has resulted in unjust treatment toward Muslim people everywhere, with communities in Texas to Florida to Nebraska reporting threats and defacement of mosques, passengers refusing to get on flights with people who “look Muslim” and much worse.

DU's commitment to Inclusive Excellence creates a welcoming community Photo by Chloe Barrett

DU’s commitment to Inclusive Excellence creates a welcoming community
Photo by Chloe Barrett

Additionally, following the Paris Attacks, national attention has been drawn to Islamophobia on college campuses, a charge that DU is not entirely innocent of. Second-year business marketing student, Kylee Skall recalls seeing an abundance of hateful, Islamophobic slurs on the anonymous social networking app Yik Yak following the Paris Attacks in November.

“I remember there being a lot of really graphic, violent threats,” said Skall. “Stuff like ‘murder all Muslims’ and ‘ban Muslims from America.’”

Arguably, cruel and ignorant messages such as this are nothing new for anonymous forums like Yik Yak, but it would seem that this malice has begun to transcend the virtual realm into the everyday life of students at DU. Second-year political science and public policy student, Cheyenne Hunt, reports seeing a poster in Sturm hall in mid-January showing a woman wearing a hijab—the purpose of which is to encourage cultural sensitivity on DU’s campus—with the words “go back home” written on it.

While these scathing illustrations of anti-Muslim slurs and threats are certainly objectionable, they are mild compared to the most violent instances of on-campus backlash, most prevalent among them, the recent murder of three Muslim Chapel Hill students. Contrastingly, DU has actually managed to create and promote a community in which every member has a voice, thanks in large part to its commitment to Inclusive Excellence. Samiha Matin, a second-year international studies student and practicing Muslim also credits DU’s promotion of Inclusive Excellence for this accepting environment.

“…every student is provided the same opportunities,” said Matin. “Whether or not they choose to take them is a personal decision that they have the agency to take.” And Matin knows discrimination and inequity when she sees it, having experienced Islamophobia outside of DU.

“I was with my Bengali friends and was asked to show a stranger on the light rail my visa as proof that I’m ‘allowed’ to be in the US,” said Matin. “I genuinely felt bad for the ignorant man who asked me to show proof that I can be here, when I’m a US citizen.”

Conversely, on campus, Matin recognizes a community of informed people and an overall effort to break down assumptions and stereotypes such as the one she experienced. DU’s understanding and educated status becomes that much more impressive seeing as many of the current presidential candidates are unable to identify any distinction between the destructive tenets of extremist terrorist groups such as ISIS and mainstream Islam. During an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Nov. 16, Donald Trump suggested closing down mosques in the United States because that’s where all terrorists go to conspire, “You’re going to have to watch and study the mosques because a lot of talking is going on at the mosques.” Hunt points to comments such as these for the ignorance of those in the DU community who vandalized the poster or wrote the insensitive Yik Yak posts.

“The current presidential race is filled with candidates who insight misplaced hate and panic in the public in an attempt to garner attention and support,” said Hunt. “Intelligent, strong-minded individuals are those who form their own opinions and don’t fall victim to such helatious manipulation.”

And it’s true. Despite the fact that practicing Muslims overwhelmingly condemn terrorists and their use of the Quran to legitimize mass murder, misguided comments from individuals like Trump have the power to derail progress and enlightenment. People within the DU community are able to prevent this from happening by starting conversations that identify the problem and make measurable steps towards abolishing it.

At the forefront of these steps is DU’s Center for Multicultural Excellence; the goal of resources such as this is to create compassion and understanding among people who may have never experienced different practices and beliefs from their own. Additionally, according to Matin who is co-President of DU’s Muslim Student Association, the MSA exists to “create an inclusive and supportive community for Muslim and non-Muslim students…Everyone is welcome (to) discuss various aspects of Islam in order to embrace differences between all of our cultures and practices.”

Though DU has done a superb job in allotting its community a welcoming and safe environment, there’s always room for improvement. Matin describes the ability to identify injustice and start a conversation about it when you do as the best way the community as a whole can begin to do so.

“I think the most important thing we can do is educate ourselves in order to be allies for those who are discriminated against,” said Matin. “This doesn’t mean you have to become an expert on the subject, but rather have an open mind and be willing to learn about others’ experiences and stick up for injustice when you see it.”

Hunt echoes this sentiment: “If we aim to abolish all intolerance, it will not be done with scolding, but a community effort to start engaging in an unencumbered discussion about the topic,” said Hunt. “We must think for ourselves.”

Pioneers prepared to embark on this mission can check out the 2016 Diversity Summit on Inclusive Excellence featuring the complementary series on Extremism and Islamophobia.




2 Responses to DU’s Inclusive Excellence promotes acceptance towards Muslim students in the wake of terrorism

  • Jillian Queri
    Jillian Queri says:

    Wow, Chloe. Such a powerful, moving and informative article. You did a great job of stating your information and creating your story. Your use of student interviews really added another dimension to what has been occurring across the globe and on DU’s campus. Your writing kept me engaged and it was easy to follow. Thank you for sharing! Wonderful work.

  • Cordelia Tafoya
    Cordelia Tafoya says:

    Great article, Chloe. You included some really strong quotes and shed light on a really important topic. Nice work!

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