Love and hope meet bigotry and prejudice for the NYU Muslim Student Association — they plan to continue spreading positive messages, even after Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration.
After the election, Trump openly expressed his desire to implement a registry for American Muslims, and his public demonstrations of Islamophobia became an issue on campus last semester after the election. The day immediately following his victory, Tandon’s Muslim prayer room was vandalized with the word ‘Trump,’ and MSA responded by hosting a rally to express solidarity and support for the Muslim community.
“I know that following month, there was a lot of support from various communities,” Afraz Khan, MSA president and CAS senior, said. “The anthropology department sent us a letter of solidarity saying [they] stand with the Muslim community, there was a letter from the Black Student Union, from Latinos Unidos Con Honor y Amistad [and] student government.”
Members of the group are working on a video project with the university’s Committee for Student Life to educate viewers on Islamophobia and ways to handle challenging situations when they occur. MSA’s board is also working to form coalitions with other groups on campus to encourage dialogue and has reached out to College Republicans with hopes to host a structured conversation between the organizations.
Khan said that MSA’s efforts to collaborate with other groups are vital to creating an accepting environment on campus.
“Oftentimes it’s easy to get support from people who think similarly to you,” Khan said. “But at the end of the day, if I’m not really engaging in dialogue with people who think differently than I do, then there’s a lot of wasted potential in that regard.”
Khan also said he hopes to gain positive dialogues out of a conversation with the College Republicans, and he believes both groups will benefit.
NYU Vice President of Student Affairs Marc Wais had a meeting with MSA board members to discuss Muslim students’ concerns on campus. The primary points included the lack of an easily accessible prayer space; the need for separate swimming hours at the pool for each gender; as well as recognition of Muslim holidays paired with guaranteed excused absences.
“NYU has taken a number of steps toward addressing the issue of campus climate for Muslim students,” Wais said. “These steps include professional development sessions for faculty and staff, training for all public safety staff and maintaining a relationship with the student senators council to continue to involve them in taking action as leaders.”
MSA builds community with Monday night dinners and frequents community events such as Six Flags trips and classes with their imams to explore different topics in Islam. LS junior RJ Khalaf serves as the MSA treasurer, and he said that the club’s mission is to create a safe space for Muslim students to socialize and explore their faith.
“We want our club to be one that stands up for what is right and have a strong network to support it,” Khalaf said.
Khan said that MSA plans to develop a more open and understanding relationship between professors and students in the Muslim community.
“We’re also looking for a greater awareness in terms of how professors develop their curriculum, taking into account things related to the Muslim community,” Khan said. “In this moment in time, we can do our part by making our presence more well-known on campus so people are able to learn more from the community around us.”
Email Miranda Levingston at [email protected]