Discrimination against Muslims prompts hate crime awareness event

Saturday, November 3, 2007 | 3:42 p.m. CDT; updated 6:24 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Discrimination against Muslim students prompted Farah Naz to organize an event to bring together student groups and raise awareness about hate crime incidents on campus.

“As bad as it sounds, it happens to a lot of people,” said Naz, a member of the Muslim Student Organization.

The event, held Friday afternoon in Memorial Union on the MU campus, brought together several student groups in an effort to plan a collaborative event on campus.

Maneeza Iqbal, who is a work-study student at the Missourian and is taking a course in convergence editing, helped organize the event. She called it a “pre-meeting” that will result in an event hosted by several MU student groups.

“I just think it’s long overdue,” Iqbal said.

Several Muslim students have complained of discrimination on campus in the past few weeks, but one specific occurrence sparked Naz to plan the meeting. Naz organized Scarves for Solidarity on Oct. 24, which encouraged women to wear a hijab, or headscarf, for a day. The event was created by a non-Muslim woman in Washington state after Sept. 11, 2001, to show solidarity with Muslim women who wear scarves and are faced with prejudice based on their religion. The event has spread to college campuses throughout the country, and 25 women at MU participated this year. Naz added a fundraising aspect by asking local businesses to donate $1 to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. The Muslim Student Organization collected $150 and prizes for the participants. When Naz wrote an e-mail asking the women who participated to share their experiences, one woman wrote back and said a driver almost ran her over and yelled a racial slur at her. The woman did not file a police report, which concerned Naz.

“She’s scared to do it, or she doesn’t think it’s a big deal. Either way, it’s a bad situation,” Naz said.

Representatives from the Hillel Jewish Student Organization, the Rape Education Office and Four Front, a coalition of minority groups at MU, attended Friday’s meeting.

All agreed that student groups on campus should work together to organize an event, but none has specific suggestions. The groups will form some ideas and gather from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday in Room 234 in Brady Commons to plan the event. Anyone interested in planning a campuswide event are welcome to attend.

Nanette C.M. Ward, a human rights investigator with the Columbia/Boone County Health Department, said groups from the city and the university should work together to alleviate discrimination in Columbia.

“There’s a disconnect between campus and community,” she said.

Naz acknowledged that discrimination is a problem not just on campus, but in Columbia.

“There’s a problem in Columbia in general,” Naz said. “People have been e-mailing me wanting to know what’s going on or what they can do.”

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