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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Muslims Face Discrimination and Intolerance

    As the country sought to find answers in the wake ofSeptember 22, 2001, some Americans searched and found an easy scapegoat -American Muslims, most of whom have little in common, besides religion, withthe hijackers.

    The American Muslim community has found themselves in aprecarious situation, according to the Council on American Islamic Relations(CAIR), a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C, which said 57percent of the seven million Muslims in America have experienced bias ordiscrimination since the terror attacks.

    Even on Stony Brook’s diverse campus, many Muslimstudents are painfully aware that things have changed for the worse:

    ‘?I get a lot more dirty looks than before,’ saida Muslim student who wished to remain anonymous.

    Sister Saana Nadeem, Director of the Muslim StudentAssociation (MSA), said that Muslims in the U.S have experienced discriminationfar worse than dirty looks.

    ‘?Discrimination against Muslims had resulted in lossof jobs and lives,’ she said.

    According toCAIR, people who appear to be of Middle-Eastern or Arabic descent, but are notMusliml, have also been targets of discrimination. One of the most highlypublicized hate crimes following 9/11 was the brutal slaying of Balbir SinghSodhi of Mesa, Arizona. It was a case of mistaken identity. Sodhi, who was aSikh by faith, was singled out because he was thought to be a follower ofIslam.

    Most of the Muslim students on campus say the most commonharassment they have encountered had been in the form of verbal abuse. Somesaid that they knew someone who had been accosted by strangers and threatenedwith violence.

    But that this form of harassment is more prevalentoff-campus than on.

    Nadeem said that the negative portrayal of Islam and itsfollowers in the media has made matters worse. She said that she wasparticularly offended by ‘?Islamic experts’ on television, perpetratingmyths about Islam.

    ‘?Reading one book on Islam does not make one anIslamic expert,’ said Nadeem.

    After watching Uzi-toting terrorists proclaim binLaden’s death threats on primetime news, however, it might be difficultfor some to distinguish between law-abiding American Muslims and extremistsuicide bombers. But blurring the sharp lines between them has only led toprejudice and injustice.

    ‘?It pains me to see young bright kids labeled asterrorists,’ Nadeem said. She was referring specifically to the threeAmerican Muslim medical students, whose run-in with the law in Georgia was theresult of a police tip off by a ‘?concerned’ member of the public.The incident angered the Muslim community and civil liberties activists, whoasserted that if the three medical students been Caucasian males, it would havebeen just another day in the South.

    Nadeem said that educating the public about the ‘?trueIslam’ is the only way to counter public misconceptions.

    ‘?Islam is a religion of peace, not violence like theysay on TV’, she said.

    Non-Muslims often have had little contact with the religionand no formal education about its history.

    ‘?I think [Muslims] should use the media to teach thepublic about their religion, while Americans are still interested,’ saidRaymond, a Master’s student only willing to give his first name.

    Sister Saana says non-Muslim students rarely attend theevents held by the MSA.

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