By: Nilo Exar, Staff Writer
The Muslim Student Association hosted a candlelight vigil Tuesday, Feb. 17, for the three Muslim students killed in a shooting in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, that occurred the week before.
Students, faculty, staff and community members gathered in the Loch Raven Room of the University Union for a vigil that included thoughts and prayers from members of the university and nearby communities. Representatives and honorary members of the Muslim Student Association also spoke.
The vigil also included an allotment of time where the mic was left open to allow Muslim students to come forward and share their experiences. Students of all backgrounds spoke up during the open mic session and offered their condolences and thoughts to Towson’s Muslim community.
While the vigil helped the Towson community try to come to terms with the events in Chapel Hill, there is still work to be done at Towson University to educate people about Islam.
Sophomore political science and international studies major Omnia Shedid, president of the Middle Eastern Student Association, or MESA, said that an important part of this education may be visibility.
“I think that we need to be more apparent on campus, as paradoxical as it may seem, because by being more apparent, we’re exposing people to Islam” Shedid said. “ We’re exposing people to this peaceful and loving religion and teaching them about it. What they see in the media is all forged.”
Shedid said that exposing more people to Islam is key to opening up people’s minds about the religion that is peaceful at its core so events like that of Chapel Hill don’t happen again.
“We shouldn’t have to hide our ethnicity. We shouldn’t have to hide our religion. My mom shouldn’t be scared to walk out on the street,” Shedid said. “When you have ignorance that is still feeding on people and infecting people’s minds, it is just wrong on so many levels, and people really need to be more educated, be more mindful, and keep their minds open…one person affects everyone.”
Sophomore speech-language pathology and audiology major and member of the Muslim Student Association, Aliyah Khalifa said that she has experienced people treating her differently because of her choice to practice Islam.
“Sometimes I get stares, but it doesn’t even faze me. The fact that I have to call my mom if I feel like somebody is following me, I feel like that shouldn’t have to be normal, and to me it feels like it’s regular,” Khalifa said.
Shedid said that the acts of a few extremists can lead the media to negatively report about the religion, but that Islam at its core is peaceful at every facet.
“Americans think Islam promotes evil, promotes terror. No, it doesn’t. It’s all about peace,” junior biology major Eman Shedid said.
“Islam is all about peace. It’s all about love. It’s all about unity. It’s all about acceptance; there is no hate to it. If you really understand the religion, there is not a single ounce of hate,” Omnia Shedid said.
Shedid had some more advice for the University as a whole regarding the events and moving forward.
“Let’s stand united, because if we’re not united as a university, it will all come crashing down…No matter the religion, the race, the gender, the sexual orientation, we are all one. The meaning of life is to exist.” Shedid said.