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Students gather at memorial service to discuss recent terror attacks, islamophobia

By Emily Sorkin Smith and Zach Phil Schwartz

Section: Features

April 8, 2016

Students held a memorial for those affected by terrorist attacks in Brussels, Somalia and other parts of the world on Tuesday, April 5. The memorial payed respects to the victims of these terrorist attacks and examined the discrepancy in media coverage and social media reactions between terrorist attacks in different locations.

23 students attended the memorial, organized by Sara Haidermota ’18.

“I heard about more attacks, in Pakistan and Baghdad, after the ones in Brussels. I thought it was essential to pay respect to the people who died, the people injured and all their families,” Haidermota wrote in an email to The Brandeis Hoot, explaining her decision to organize the memorial. “Not doing so just feels insensitive and indifferent to global tragedies.”

Students held a memorial service after the terrorist attacks in Paris, France last semester, at which several French students spoke. Haidermota wanted to expose students to the terrorist attacks happening in non-European countries, however.

“I thought it was very important to emphasize that people should convey solidarity and hope to every place that is affected by terrorism, instead of engaging in selective mourning,” Haidermota explained. “I wanted to clear a misconception that a lot of people have about all Muslims being terrorists, and I wanted to spread awareness about the rising Islamophobia in the US.”

She opened the memorial with a few words aimed at addressing the alarming lack of response to terrorist attacks occurring in non-Western countries as well as the effects of anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States.

Haidermota noted how attacks that occur in non-Western places do not receive nearly as much outcry compared to responses to attacks in the West, like in Brussels and in Paris. “It deeply saddens me that the same messages of solidarity, hope and friendship were not given to Turkey, Iraq, Yemen, the Ivory Coast or Pakistan,” she said.

Discussing the rise of Islamophobia resulting from these attacks, Haidermota cited the story of a 12-year-old boy in Texas tormented by his teacher and fellow students while watching a comedy because he is Muslim. “Waleed was laughing when the teacher with them said, ‘I wouldn’t be laughing if I was you.’ When the boy asked why, she responded, ‘Because we all think you’re a terrorist,’” she said.

After speaking, Haidermota and Rabbi Elyse Winnick ’86 opened the floor to discussion on Islamophobia, the media’s portrayal of the Middle East, Middle Eastern history and American ignorance of Islam. People traded personal stories and discussed ways to change societal views of Islam.

As the conversation came to a close, the discussion turned to how to make a difference on campus, including through campus media and the Student Union. Wil Jones ’18, junior representative-elect to the Board of Trustees and Chief of Staff to Union President Nyah Macklin ’16, expressed concern over the under-utilization of the Union, which exists to help students establish events and clubs on campus that could advocate for societal change. Macklin is available for one-on-one meetings and the Student Union also offers assistance in funding clubs and events on campus for students who wish to advocate for change on campus.

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