The Yale Muslim Students Association is responding to the election of Donald Trump with a fundraiser to combat biases and bolster Yale’s Muslim community.
The Southern Poverty Law Center reported on Tuesday that in the five days following Election Day, there were “more than 400 incidents of hateful harassment and intimidation.” According to the report, over 30 of those were targeted against Muslims. Abrar Omeish ’18, president of the MSA, said that the MSA’s fundraiser — which has raised nearly $3,000 of its $20,000 goal — has both short-term and long-term goals, each addressing different aspects of the recent hate crimes.
“On the one hand, it is a safety fund to respond to whatever will come in the near future,” Omeish said. “We can use the money toward cases where people feel intimidated and can’t seek mental health resources.”
The MSA wrote in its Facebook post introducing the fundraiser that Muslims have been victims of violence, slurs and robbery on and off college campuses in the wake of the election.
Omeish explained that the MSA’s collected funds could also provide for families who experience violence and harassment. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported a Nov. 11 incident in which a Muslim high school teacher discovered a note telling her to hang herself with her headscarf. Similar anti-hijab incidents have occurred in New Haven and even at Yale, Omeish said.
“Several women reported that their hijabs were tugged, not necessarily by Yalies, but here at Yale,” she said. “Name-calling has been done by Yalies, though.”
Omer Bajwa, director of Muslim life at Yale, said that these hate crimes, targeted at various minority communities, were caused by hateful rhetoric used during the election campaign. Bajwa said the responsibility for the emergence of anti-Muslim fringe groups falls on the Trump administration for its “anemic attempts at denouncing and reigning” them in.
Noora Reffat ’19 explained that although the Trump campaign condoned the invalidation of Muslims, the anti-Muslim rhetoric and the misrepresentation of Islam by the media is nothing new.
“What is new, though, is having a president who not only perpetuates the hateful rhetoric, but also continues to stand by Islamophobic policy that would further alienate and endanger the Muslims in this country,” she said.
Another way to combat this rhetoric is through exposure and education, which is what Omeish described as the fund’s long-term goals. In the coming months, through more MSA programming and coalition building with other cultural and minority groups on campus, Yale students will “see a face of what Muslims really look like,” Omeish said.
Omeish explained that the Muslim community must build more of a presence to lessen fear, hate or ignorance about the religious community.
“We want to highlight that there is a status quo, which needs engagement, intelligent critique and pushback against certain privileges which perpetuate hate crimes,” Bajwa said.
Bajwa attributed the issue of Islamophobia to religious illiteracy, the lack of exposure to other religious communities and texts.
“People need to learn about Islam outside of their political science and global affairs classes. They need to learn about what it actually means to be a Muslim in the modern age … and look at the religion with fresh eyes, through an unbiased lens,” Reffat said.
Bajwa believes that the Muslim community can learn a lot from the Jewish experience, particularly in terms of periods of integration and adaptation in the wake of anti-Semitism. The beauty of America, according to Bajwa, is that it is a nation of ethnically, religiously, culturally and linguistically diverse immigrants.
The MSA held a community meeting the night after the election to reflect upon fear and frustration, which drew nearly 40 people.