By Sophia Bates, Assistant News Editor and Marcus Whitman, Staff Writer
The Towson University community gathered in Freedom Square Wednesday for a Unity Rally hosted by the Muslim Student Association.
The rally started with an introduction from Muslim Student Association President Romesa Mustafa, who spoke to the rally’s purpose which they said was unity against hatred and violence following the Bible Believers’ protest two weeks ago.
“What happened on Thursday may have been an external affair, but we have internal issues that you cannot deny,” Mustafa said. “What we shall focus on, though, is unity against hatred and supremacy, because together we are the ones who hold the power to prove love.”
After her introduction, Mustafa introduced the first speaker, Zainab Chaundry. Chaundry is the Director of CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, in the Maryland branch.
Chaundry encouraged action on speaking out against hateful rhetoric and pursuing activism on the campus.
“This is not the time to sit on sidelines — this not the time to be quiet and complacent, this is the time to roll up our sleeves, to be loud, to be proud and to be unafraid,” Chaundry said. “The people who came to this campus last week, bringing hateful signs, want to move our country backwards, they want to take our country back to a dark place.”
Baltimore County Administrative Officer Stacey Rodgers shared words of solidarity for the community.
“And on behalf of the entire Baltimore county administration, we want you to know we stand in solidarity with you,” Rodgers said.
After Rodgers spoke, representatives from three faith groups on campus including Muslim Chaplain Sanaullah Kirmani, Baltimore Lutheran Campus Ministry Pastor Laura Sinche and Executive Director of Towson Hillel Lisa Bodziner spoke for unity amongst the campus. Other speakers included freshman Iqra Zulfiqar, freshman Evelina Sarapi from the Towson Democrats, Sheri Razaq-Lee from Towson Freedom School and SGA Director of Diversity and Inclusion Jordan Lean.
Kirmani feels that the interfaith relationship of Towson’s campus is a good representation of the beauty in unity.
“All of these traditions speak of human freedom, the God-given ability to be free, the God-given ability to speak and whether it is Christians or Jews or Muslims, whatever you have, they want to be feeling the gift of faith and the gift of love, and for each one of them it is expressed in a different way” Kirmani said. “That for me is really attractive, so I am glad they all came here.”
According to Sinche, the rally proved that Towson’s campus could not be divided, especially in faith.
“I think they [attendees] saw we weren’t willing to be divided. And we weren’t willing to have outside groups kind of whip us up into a frenzy, that we were willing to display the best of what our faith traditions are, and be united in that rather than separated,” Sinche said.
Mustafa said that the rally sparked quickly following the protest to show the MSA’s support for the campus.
“What we saw on the campus on Thursday was really hateful,” Mustafa said. “We wanted to have a little unity rally to show that we’re actually together in fact and that we’re going to stand together with each other, and that’s why I invited all the members that I could…just to know that we’re going to support you no matter what your identity is.”
Chaundry felt as though the rally was a sign of empowerment for young Muslims in the community.
“Anytime our young folks feel empowered and protected, then we are doing our job. Our goal and our mission is to empower young Muslims and young Americans to feel like they can stand up for themselves, be unapologetic in all of their very complex or very basic identities,” Chaundry said.
Zulfiqar, who delivered a spoken word that erupted applause from the attendees, feels that rallies and speeches are powerful for the community.
“I have done about two, maybe three spoken words on campus and the response is always full of love and compassion and care,” Zulfiqar said. “Random people come up and hug me because my words touched them, so that’s when I realized that words are so powerful. Events like these, not going to lie, they make me emotional. To see people stand together as one in unity for someone they don’t know…or to say this is not going to be allowed at Towson…for people to stand for equality is something I truly admire about the human race.”