After the news of the Manhattan terrorist attack allegedly done in the name of Islam on Oct. 31, The Knox Islamic club reaffirmed their commitment to spreading the truth about their religion to non-Muslim members of the student body. For the Islamic club, it is important that they are able to spread awareness about their religion amongt the violence and the stereotypes associated with their faith.
According to CNN, a man drove a rental truck into a bike lane of New York City’s Hudson River bike path, killing eight bicyclists and pedestrians and injuring a dozen more. The suspect was later identified as Sayfullo Saipov, an immigrant from Uzbekistan who appeared to be carrying out orders from ISIS.
“The Quran says if you kill one innocent person, it’s like you have killed all of mankind in the eyes of God. Why would someone say they’re doing something for Allah, but proceed to go against the fundamental teachings of Islam? It doesn’t make sense,” said sophomore co-president Iesha Said.
One of the ways the Islamic club decided to spread awareness about the truth of Islam was by pushing the fact that the club was open to everyone, not just Muslim students. According to the club, having solidarity from non-Muslim members is crucial to combat the stigma attached to the religion.
“When we were calling for people at club fair the first thing we heard was ‘but I’m not even Muslim’,” co-president sophomore Shayaan Nadeem said. “But we were like ‘you don’t need to be Muslim to attend our meetings. If you just want to learn about the religion we can send you our emails.’”
The club currently has two non-Muslim members who regularly attend meetings. They provide a crucial perspective for the club, as they can come up to their fellow members and let them know what questions they have about their faith as outsiders. According to Nadeem, the two members were given the primary text of the religion, the Quran, to help them better understand the religion.
Freshman Camille Morhun has been attending Islamic club since the beginning of the year. Her decision to join the club came from a mixture of her family’s views on religion and the fact that her neighbors were Muslim. Morhun’s parents are separated and both have radically different views on religion.
“My mom grew up in a non-denominational environment and basically she was allowed to pick her own religion… she chose Catholicism and her brother chose Judaism,” she said.
However, Morhun stated her father’s side of her family approached religion in a much less open-minded way and often questioned why she was showing solidarity with Muslim students. Even though Morhun wears the religious head covering called the hijab to Islamic events, she states she would not be allowed to do so in the company of some of her family members.
“In America and Western countries, this whole idea of Islamophobia, it really has an effect on Muslim communities and people don’t understand that… having all these things in the media that say your religion has something really bad [in it],” Said told. “that can psychologically have an effect on you. You don’t wanna be another statistic, another number… another Angry Muslim.”
Members of the Islamic Club commented that they typically do not experience Islamophobia, or prejudice against Muslims, on campus at Knox. However, outside of the campus is different. Said stated she has felt uncomfortable walking through Galesburg at times. Said is the only Muslim student on campus this year who has chosen to don the hijab permanently. For that reason, Said tries to remain extra cautious when walking through Galesburg. Said mentioned that seeing the Confederate flag in various places in Galesburg has always made her feel uneasy.
“Growing up in Colorado, I felt really comfortable there because that’s my [home state],” Said said. “But here my family is always worried. They tell me to be careful if I’m driving somewhere or if I’m going somewhere at night.”
Said stated it was not only scary to see news stories about Islamic extremism, like the Manhattan attack story, but it was also scary to watch news stories about mosques being vandalized and Muslim women being harassed and physically attacked.
“You hear these stories of women wearing the hijab being pushed onto train tracks and all these things,” said Said. “People don’t realize how hard it is [to hear that].”
Said and Nadeem both feel as though Islam is unfairly tagged as a violent religion, as the religion is actually one that promotes peace. They hope that having non-Muslim members will help them get that message across to people who don’t usually interact with the Muslim population.
“At the end of the day, Islam is only growing bigger, especially in the United States… it doesn’t make sense how a religion that is supposed to promote all this terrorism, that people are actually coming to it… the whole reason that they’re coming to us is they see the peace, and the tranquility and the oneness.” Said said.