Yale’s Muslim community is fearful that stereotypes and emotion resulting from speculation that Islamic extremism played a role in Tuesday’s terrorist activities may put them and those who share their faith in danger.
Several dozen Muslim students gathered last night to discuss the day’s events, trying to put the tragedy into perspective and better cope with their insecurities. All international students received an e-mail from the Office of International Students and Scholars, warning that the tragedy could “provoke intense emotion in many Americans.”
Muslim students and faculty members were equally devastated by the terror and expressed outrage.
“It’s a tragedy of unquestionable proportion,” said genetics professor Mazin Qumsiyeh, a Palestinian. “I’m speechless.”
Students expressed similar revulsion.
“There’s definitely that gut reaction,” Aatif Iqbal ’05 said. “I feel that anger too.”
But many also feel vulnerable. They recall days immediately following the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which featured widespread incidents of harassment of Muslims throughout the country.
Nabilah Siddiquee ’05 remembers when her mosque in Springfield, Ill., was bombed in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, before Timothy McVeigh became the prime suspect.
“That memory still sticks with me,” Siddiquee said. “But people at Yale are open-minded. They’re not going to jump to conclusions.”
An awareness, however, exists among Yale Muslims, that even an average person’s passions can get out of control.
“Personally, I’ve never encountered an anti-Muslim stereotype, but seeing all this energy and passion buildup — anytime you see that — there’s a good chance for that energy to be misdirected,” said Saad Khanani ’02, a Pakistani.
Muslim students noted that if it becomes evident that extremist elements were responsible for the terrorism, the perpetrators are subscribing to a highly unconventional brand of Islam.
“In Islam, if you commit suicide for any reason, you go to hell,” Khanani said. “There are no questions about it.”
The American Muslim Council quickly condemned the terrorist acts Tuesday, saying “no cause that justifies this type of an immoral and inhumane act that has affected so many innocent American lives.”
“We’re going to be seeing a lot of mainstream Muslim organizations condemning this whole thing,” Khanani said. “This is not mainstream Islam.”