Yale Muslims work to open dialogue

call_the_NYPD
Photo by Facebook.

This past Tuesday, standing on Cross Campus, Mostafa Al-Alusi ’13 held up a sign that read “I’m a Muslim” while another student snapped a photo that would soon be posted to Facebook as part of an online campaign.

Al-Alusi was one of 116 participants in the “Call the NYPD Campaign,” a student-organized response to news released Feb. 18 that the New York Police Department had monitored the activities of Yale’s Muslim Student Association. A student had pitched the idea for the photo campaign at a Muslim Students Association meeting the week before and recruited a group of both Muslim and non-Muslim students to execute the campaign in protest of racial and religious profiling.

“Given the news from the NYPD, I feel targeted and vulnerable,” Faisal Hamid ’13, who serves as Vice President of Yale’s Muslim Student Association and also participated in the campaign, told the News on Tuesday evening.

In a Feb. 20 email to the Yale community, University President Richard Levin had asserted Yale’s opposition to the NYPD’s actions, and Hamid said he and other MSA leaders hope to “capitalize” on the administration’s support. Levin’s announcement provided an opportunity for the MSA to re-open what they now view as necessary dialogue on campus about being Muslim at Yale, Hamid said.

STUDENT REACTION

The week before the news broke, the MSA and the Chaplain’s Office hosted their annual Muslim Awareness Week, designed to help Non-Muslim Yalies better understand the Islamic faith. While Muslim Yalies said they felt shaken when they learned about the NYPD’s actions, seven interviewed said they still feel welcome in Yale’s environment.

Yale’s Muslim community is made up of between 200 and 300 students from both domestic and international backgrounds, said Omer Bajwa, Yale’s coordinator for Muslim Life. Bajwa said that the chaplain’s office, in conjunction with Yale’s Muslim Students Association, hosts Friday prayer sessions, weekly religious dinners educational programming and pastoral counseling.

“Being a Muslim at Yale hasn’t made my experiences any different from any other student’s,” Sana Samnani ‘12 said. “In many ways, I have felt empowered and supported by the Yale Muslim community.”

Samnani said she was attracted to Yale’s Muslim community because she knew she shared a common background with other members. Participating has helped her better understand her religion, she added.

When news broke that the New York Police Department had conducted surveillance on the Yale Muslim Student Association, all seven students interviewed said they were caught off guard by the revelation.

“My gut reaction was to wonder, to myself and to others, why the NYPD felt a need to investigate Muslim students,” Samnani said. “Obviously, we found out very soon that there was no real reason, other than the fact that we are Muslims.”

Bajwa said many students told him the news confirmed their suspicions about dubious law enforcement practices regarding surveillance of Muslims nationwide. Still, he said, they were shocked by the “infiltration on college campuses.”

Students said Levin’s swift and firm response, condemning the NYPD’s monitoring of the MSA, affirmed their confidence in the University.

Al-Alusi, MSA president, said administrators were in contact with the MSA immediately, and students met with University Vice President and Secretary Linda Lorimer, whose office oversees the Chaplain’s Office and security on campus, on Monday night.

Al-Alusi said the news shook his faith that academic institutions are places where students can freely express their ideas, but he added that the administration’s response cleared that fear for him.

“When the administration came to our defense, it was a lot better,” he said. “We realized that Yale had nothing to do with it, that Yale was taking a stance against it.”

TAKING A STAND

But Hamid said he believes there is still misinformation concerning Islam on campus and he thinks Muslim students on campus should be more vocal about their identity so that other students can approach them with questions.

“We’re being targeted by this large group,” Hamid said. “I feel vulnerable because although we spoke with Yale administration and they’ve been very supportive, there’s only so much that they can do.”

Bajwa said that increased discussion about Islam both on campus and nationwide has prompted some students to approach him about Islamophobic comments they have heard on campus. While Bajwa said he does not think these comments are characteristic of all Yalies, he said he believes heightened conversation has revealed latent attitudes of Islamophobia as well as a degree of cultural ignorance.

“It’s a much more subtle thing,” Al-Alusi said. “People who wouldn’t consider themselves Islamophobes, who have a very academic and sterilized way of talking about it, hold underlying assumptions without knowing anything that reveal the mindset with which they are approaching Islam.”

William Redden ’14, chair of Yale’s Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said he feels students on campus had grown too accustomed to infringements on civil liberties, adding that there is room for further action.

Samnani said while she is heartened by the support expressed across campus and beyond the Yale community, she is concerned by the way some people have dismissed the monitoring as justifiable.

“There seems to be a sentiment among some students that profiling or monitoring Muslim student groups is justified in the name of national security,” Samnani said. “At this point, it’s a process trying to educate these people and raise awareness that singling out an entire group, for any purpose, without cause is completely unjustifiable and un-American.”

Al-Alusi and Bajwa both said they hope to combat stereotyping by continuing to educate students about Islam and Muslim culture through events such as Islamic Awareness week and panel discussions. Bajwa said even at an elite institution, educational outreach is crucial and that he and the MSA will continue working to counter the abundance of misinformation about Islam.

On Cross Campus last Tuesday, Muslim students did not stand alone. Maddy Yozwiak ’14, who attended an open meeting of the MSA and decided to help plan the MSA’s “Call the NYPD” photo campaign, identifies as Catholic. Yozwiak said the campaign was intended to be a visual and funny demonstration of “broader support” for the issues at stake.

“The thing that we were concerned about was that the issue was being cast in too much of a religious light, but it needed to be about civil rights,” Yozwiak said, later adding that the issues raised by the NYPD surveillance were not specific to Muslims but could apply to any student.

Isaac Wasserman ’14, who also participated in the campaign, agreed the issue tied into a broader conversation about free speech.

“There is never any justification for saying you belong to a certain group and you therefore must act a certain way,” he said.

Comments

  • River_Tam

    It’s sociologically fascinating to see what Yalies identify as. A lot of “feminist”s, “atheist”s, “Jewish atheist”s, and the like. Plenty of “Latina”s, one brave “WASP”, several “Nigerian”s.

    (Wonder what would have happened if someone had written “I support the NYPD” on their sign.)

    I eat trans-fats. Call the NYPD.

    • JE14

      If I had run into them, I would have written “I support the NYPD”. Pretty sure it wouldn’t have been uploaded though.

    • penny_lane

      Saying you’re a WASP isn’t that brave. I do it all the time. And it’s even only half true (like when Obama says he’s black).

      • River_Tam

        (I was kidding about the “brave” part)

  • The Anti-Yale

    To be quite frank, I don’t know much about Islam at all, except what I’ve read in the papers. I recall when I would drive from Vermont to Ithaca 20 years ago , I would occasionally see groups of Muslims on prayer rugs at a roadside pull-over,kneeling, performing daily prayer.

    And I have recently thought, that the minaret and the call to prayer is even more clever than the Christian hourly bells ringing out across a town and its environs from steeples, because it utters words not just sounds, words in a specific language and mentioning a specific deity.

    These (steeple bells/ minartet calls) are pre-pavlovian, stimulus response mechanisms which assert dominance over a wide geographical areas in a pre-radio, pre-television world.

    So, if it isn’t too presumptuous: Please tell me five things about Islam I, as a self-confessed,culturally sheltered Mt. Carmel born and raised WASP, ought to know.

    Please.

    • Levi6969

      ولدي أيضا أسئلة حول الإسلام. على سبيل المثال، كان هناك فتاة جميلة الفارسي في فئة تاريخ بلادي. لديها الثدي جميلة. هل تعتقد انها سوف اسمحوا لي أن ممارسة الجنس معها؟ وأود أن استخدام جهاز المطاط على قضيبي؟

  • The Anti-Yale

    I’ll start.

    Here are five things to know about my own religion: Christianity:

    Many of its sects are elitist and say you can’t “get” to God EXCEPT “through” Jesus.

    Sects have different versions of Jesus (the LDS — Mormon — Jesus is not the same as the RCC Jesus or the Unitarian Jesus) which immediately invalidates the previous proposition (How can you know WHICH Jesus to choose if you wish to get to God?)

    Christianity is real-estate obsessed: Most sects accumulate — or seek to accumulate –property and a building for which they tithe (milk) their members to support.

    (That leaves me two more things to achieve my limit of five)

    Hundreds of thousands of “infidels” (non-believers) have been killed in Christianity’s name over the centuries by Christians seeking to save the souls of the world (or perhaps enslave the souls of the world? Or accumulate more property?)

    Last but not least:

    Christianity’s “historical” Jesus, was not a Christian: He was Jewish from the day he was born to the day he died (or didn’t die, as some say). The Last Supper was a Passover Meal. So the centuries of ruthless and despicable Anti-Semitism engaged in by Christians over the notion that Jesus was killed by the Jews, is RUBBISH. It took almost 2000 years (plus or minus) after the Crucifixion, for a Pope to admit the slander and libel of Jews killing Jesus was despicable rubbish and to apologize to the Jews. (Too little, too late.)

    There it is; The Christianity I was born, baptized, bred, and confirmed in and which I railed against for fouir years at Yale Divinity school in [Holy Smoke,][1] the predecessor to the Anti-Yale.

    Paul D. Keane,

    M. Div. ’80, etc.

    [1]: http://holysmoke2011.blogspot.com

    • River_Tam

      This is pretty much exactly Islam, but change “Jesus” to “Mohammed”.

      • lakia

        Uh huh, except Christians aren’t still living in the past, committing these crimes by the hundreds on a daily basis. Followers of Islam, are.

        • uncommons

          his name’s joseph kony

          check him out. kony 2012

  • The Anti-Yale

    No takers? (Even if it IS spring break?)

    What does that say about self-reflection in non-Christian religion?

  • Arafat
  • Arafat

    theantiyale,

    In the previous post I linked an article which highlights a couple of dozen differences between Islam and Christianity. Hope you enjoy and learn a thing or two dozen.

  • Galavantian

    I understood that the students being monitored were those with membership in a specific organization, not just ‘Muslim students’ as a catch-all category. If what the NYPD says about the MSA having been linked with extremist groups is true, I think the monitoring they’re doing is unfortunate but necessary. In any case, I don’t think it’s fair of the article to assume that the measure targets all Muslims. Would the British government be wrong to monitor a student group that had had ties to the IRA? It’s a tough situation.

  • Hieronymus’ Bosh

    I have always wondered how progressives, wedded as they are to multiculti peace (think “COEXIST” bumper-stickerisms), are able to reconcile their notions of “The Beauty and Majesty of Islam” with Islam’s (and not just Islamists’) avowed and applied oppression/killing of the Left’s most favored groups, i.e, women and homosexuals.

    While his observations obtain typically to Britain (extending, at times, to France and parts of Africa–but most certainly not YALE!), Theodore Dalrymple, renowned welfare doctor and psychiatrist, has written:

    “The principal immediate attraction of Islam to young Muslims brought up in the West is actually the control and oppression of women.”

    I find his observations here:
    http://www.city-journal.org/html/15_4_suicide_bombers.html

    and here: http://www.city-journal.org/html/14_2_when_islam.html

    frightening and fascinating. Prescient? I hope not.

    I will post two excerpts below.

  • Hieronymus’ Bosh

    Two highlights from the above links–and I do not claim to subscribe to his conclusions but post them for discussion. First, Dalrymple compares young Muslim girls’ experiences (and, admittedly, he typically meets such girls only after they have attempted suicide) to that of BIlly Shakes’ Juliet:

    “In fact the situation of Muslim girls in my city is [Birmingham] even worse than Juliet’s. Every Muslim girl in my city has heard of the killing of such as she back in Pakistan, on refusal to marry her first cousin, betrothed to her by her father, all unknown to her, in the earliest years of her childhood. The girl is killed because she has impugned family honor by breaking her father’s word, and any halfhearted official inquiry into the death by the Pakistani authorities is easily and cheaply bought off. And even if she is not killed, she is expelled from the household—O sweet my mother, cast me not away!—and regarded by her “community” as virtually a prostitute, fair game for any man who wants her.

    “[In Birmingham], one father prevented his daughter, highly intelligent and ambitious to be a journalist, from attending school, precisely to ensure her lack of Westernization and economic independence. He then took her, aged 16, to Pakistan for the traditional forced marriage (silence, or a lack of open objection, amounts to consent in these circumstances, according to Islamic law) to a first cousin whom she disliked from the first and who forced his attentions on her. Granted a visa to come to Britain, as if the marriage were a bona fide one—the British authorities having turned a cowardly blind eye to the real nature of such marriages in order to avoid the charge of racial discrimination—he was violent toward her.”

    It gets worse from here, concluding with the reason for her visit to Dalrymple’s hospital: “She threw herself off a cliff, but was saved by a ledge.”

    “I’ve heard a hundred variations of her emblematic story. Here, for once, are instances of unadulterated female victimhood, yet the silence of the feminists is deafening. Where two pieties—feminism and multiculturalism—come into conflict, the only way of preserving both is an indecent silence.”

  • Hieronymus’ Bosh

    I will point out that Dalrymple has written several books, all available at Sterling.

    Number two:

    “Young Muslim men in Britain—as in France and elsewhere in the West—have a problem of personal, cultural, and national identity. They are deeply secularized, with little religious faith, even if most will admit to a belief in God. Their interest in Islam is slight. They do not pray or keep Ramadan (except if it brings them some practical advantage, such as the postponement of a court appearance). Their tastes are for the most part those of non-Muslim lower-class young men. They dress indistinguishably from their white and black contemporaries, and affect the same hairstyles and mannerisms, including the vulpine lope of the slums. Gold chains, the heavier the better, and gold front teeth, without dental justification, are symbols of their success in the streets, which is to say of illicit enrichment.

    “Another obvious difference [from the white underclass] is the absence of young Muslim women from the resorts of mass distraction. However similar young Muslim men might be in their tastes to young white men, they would be horrified, and indeed turn extremely violent, if their sisters comported themselves as young white women do…

    “The young men instinctively understand that their inherited system of male domination—which provides them, by means of forced marriage, with sexual gratification at home while simultaneously freeing them from domestic chores and allowing them to live completely Westernized lives outside the home, including further sexual adventures into which their wives cannot inquire—is strong but brittle, rather as communism was: it is an all or nothing phenomenon, and every breach must meet swift punishment.

    “… And since people rarely like to admit low motives for their behavior, such as the wish to maintain a self-gratifying dominance, these young Muslims need a more elevated justification for their conduct toward women. They find it, of course, in a residual Islam: not the Islam of onerous duties, rituals, and prohibitions, which interferes so insistently in day-to-day life, but in an Islam of residual feeling, which allows them a sense of moral superiority to everything around them, including women, without in any way cramping their style.”

    These excerpts are from City Journal, which “offers a stimulating mix of hard-headed practicality and cutting-edge theory, with articles on everything from school financing, policing strategy, and welfare policy to urban architecture, family policy, and the latest theorizing emanating from the law schools, the charitable foundations, even the schools of public health.

    “The magazine holds itself to the highest intellectual, journalistic, and literary standards, aiming to produce intelligent and absorbing reading for intelligent and discerning readers.”

  • The Anti-Yale

    “oppression . . . of the Left’s most favored groups, i.e, women and homosexuals”

    You mean oppression like the blather of Rick Santorum?

    PK

    • Arafat

      antiyale,

      It’s passing strange your making a big deal about requesting information on hos Islam differs from Christianity. Then when I supply the answer to your question you ignore it. You’re a strange leftist-leaning bird.

      • The Anti-Yale

        Well Arafat, since you insist:

        I couldn’t get past the first triptych of quotes without gagging : Jesus:
        “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. [UNLESS thy neighbor is a woman or a homosexual.]”
        (Matthew 5:14)

        BTW: regardless of the quote comparisons, it was (as Bertrand Russell reminds us) none other than CHRISTIANITY which introduced into the world the notion of eternal damnation. In Russel’s opinion : any religion which introduced the idea of eternal damnation into human existence is in itself manifestly evil.

        Judaism, Islam, Huinduism, Taosism, Confuscianism, Buddhism are SMALL POTATOES compared to the sadistic author of eternal suffering: the good ol New Testament.

        Humbug. Balderdash. Tommyrot.

  • Arafat

    I appreciate your attempts, antiyale, to find a way that Islam can come into the modern world but I think all such attempts will fail. Islam, unlike any other major faith is, as Bertrand Russell observed almost a century ago, the only religion which is totalitarian in structure and ideology. And there’s no reforming a totalitarian
    ideology.
    You can’t have a kinder, nicer Nazism or a reformed Marxism. Totalitarian ideologies must be discarded. They can never be squared with such things as liberty, true democracy and equality under the law. I don’t doubt that many Muslims now and in the future will be pretty much passive about all the pathological instructions that their religion demands of them, but that is not germane. The religion itself, in all its totalitarian make-up, will remain and, guaranteed here, will always function as a death cult for at least a certain percentage of Muslims when they don’t get their way. Ultimately, it’s the relgion itself which is rotten and, though personally not religious, I don’t see rottenness in any other major faith. The Islamic theological blueprint is flawed to its very core. No other religion’s theological blueprint is. This is the essence of the problem.

  • The Anti-Yale

    “I don’t see rottenness in any other major faith.”

    Rotten, elitist, blackmail:
    John 14:6
    Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me”

    Disgusting intellectual bullying.

    Paul D. Keane

    M. Div. ’80, etc.

    • River_Tam

      > Disgusting intellectual bullying.

      Explain.

  • The Anti-Yale

    When a religion tells you that you are forever excluded from experiencing the Divine, unless you approach the Divine through its particular First Century Palestinian Carpenter prophet who it asserts is himself one third of the Divine it is engaging in blackmailing and bullying. Do THIS OUR CHRISTIAN WAY or you are excluded from Paradise and risk going to hell, and being identified as an infidel.

    Divinity does not require a country club membership—it is open to all.

    Paul D. Keane

    (plagiarizing Ralph Waldo Emerson)

    M. Div ’80, etc.

    • basho

      i bet your wife loves you

    • River_Tam

      > Do THIS OUR CHRISTIAN WAY or you are excluded from Paradise and risk going to hell, and being identified as an infidel.

      or you are going to hell.

      or you are going to hell.

      or you are going to hell.

      It’s almost like there are rules.

  • The Anti-Yale

    Rules?

    You mean rules invented by the phallocentric, male chauvinist, patriarchs at the Council of Nicea (325 A.D.) to solve the problem of polytheism v. monotheism with a new gimmick (THREE gods in ONE: wow—talk about collaborative decision making! Are there any rubrics or benchmarks for this new deity/ies? ).

    Note: all three gods are MALE.

    You can’t intimidate me with your hell, a man-made cultural Skinner-Box to keep savages from killing, plundering, raping, etc.

    To hell with hell.

    Paul D. Keane

    M. Div. ’80, etc.

    PS:

    Ironically, and paradoxically, I’ve twice advocated in [The Anti-Yale][1] bringing the now trivialized and defunct notion of hell back to keep the world’s megalomaniacs frightened into good behavior. [http://theantiyale.blogspot.com/2009/11/bring-hell-back.html][2]

    [1]: http://theantiyale.blogspot.com/2009/11/bring-hell-back.html
    [2]: http://theantiyale.blogspot.com/2009/11/bring-hell-back.html

  • Hieronymus’ Bosh

    So, how ’bout those “emo” killings? At first I thought the reports were exaggerated, but…

    Surely some Yalies must have an opinion? I mean, really, from what I see around campus, it could be someone’s friends…

  • The Anti-Yale

    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57395105/emo-and-gay-kids-targeted-killed-in-iraq/

    **Is the hatred of homosexuals in Islamic countries (link above) any worse than the systematic, legalized hatred of homosexuals in America which persisted until Lawrence v. Texas in 2002? (and still persists informally among evangelicals today?
    Paul D. Keane
    M.Div. ‘80**

    Lawrence v. Texas
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaLawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003),[1] is a landmark United States Supreme Court case. In the 6-3 ruling, the Court struck down the sodomy law in Texas and, by proxy, invalidatedsodomy laws in the thirteen other states where they remained in existence, thereby making same-sex sexual activity legal in every state and territory of the nation.

    Legal punishments often included heavy fines and/or life prison sentences, with some states (Illinois being the first in 1827) specifically denying other rights, such as suffrage, to anyone convicted of the crime of sodomy. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, several states imposed various eugenics laws against anyone deemed to be a “sexual pervert”. As late as 1970, Connecticut denied a driver’s license to a man for being an “admitted homosexual”.[3]

  • The Anti-Yale

    **”Fanaticim is forever busy and needs feeding.”**

    Hennry Drummond (Clarence Darrow)

    “Inherit the Wind”

    PK

    • theantiantiyale

      Bro, you need a different hobby. May I recommend crushing some brews?

      • basho

        and suddenly, a large stick slid out!

  • The Anti-Yale

    Hey anti-anti,

    That was the l950’s-male solution to everything: As Biff said to his father, Willy Loman , “Let’s get a load on.”

    It was stupid then and it’s stupid now.

    PK