If you look the meaning up in the dictionary or online, it says that home is a permanent residence. To me, home is a physical place, yes, but it is also defined by how I feel when I am there. In my opinion, home is where one can go to feel relaxed and comfortable — comfortable enough to feel uncomfortable — and welcomed. When I came to Ann Arbor in 2013, I thought that I had found my hoMe. I have met, and continue to meet, some of the best people I have ever known, and they make me feel comfortable. I have found this one spot by the river in the Arb that never fails to make me feel relaxed after a stressful day. I have been able to critically think while at this university and push myself outside of my boundaries because I have felt comfortable enough to feel uncomfortable.
However, I have never felt fully welcomed. As a Muslim student on this campus, I have known that my hoMe is not perfect, but I have to remind myself that no home is and perfection is not what I am striving for. What I want is to make this campus a more welcoming place for Muslim students. As a part of these efforts, my peers, staff and I hosted an event this past January titled “Student Voices Against Islamophobia.” People of all identities on campus were invited to hear Muslim students’ experiences at the University of Michigan. After their stories were heard, there was a session on allyhood intended to increase solidarity between Muslim and non-Muslim students, faculty and staff.
Tonight, a few members from our group, including myself, were attending an event where we were awarded for our successful Cross Cultural Programming. Ironically, as the award was being announced, my peers and I were notified of messages on the Diag. Among them were messages that stated “#STOPISLAM.” In that moment, I felt that no matter how much I try to move forward and create a welcoming environment on campus, Islamophobia is right there pushing me back. It feels like I am constantly hesitant to call this campus hoMe.
I fear that if people constantly see Islam as a threat, then they will begin to believe this message that Islam is something to fear and Muslims are people to hate. So for the next hour, my peers and I wiped the Diag clean of these hateful messages, and I scrubbed as hard as I could. As I watched the letters fade, I began to think that if I just scrubbed fast enough, fewer people might see, and therefore believe, this message. In the back of my mind, though, I could not help but think of how degrading it was to be cleaning up these messages that were left by someone else in my supposed hoMe. I kept bouncing back and forth between being unsurprised and utterly shocked. While I knew that this was the dominant narrative surrounding Muslims on the news, I could not believe (but sadly I kind of could) that this narrative would exist at this University.
However, I refuse to let days like these hijack my religion and take my hoMe away from me.
So to whoever wrote that message on the Diag, it is NOT Islam that you have to worry about stopping. In fact, you should consider the hatred that you yourself are spreading by supporting that message.
But above all, I want you to know that my religion is not the reason that hatred exists in this world.
“Indeed, Allah does not wrong the people at all, but it is the people who are wronging themselves” Quran (10:44).
In fact, my religion is the reason that I know how to respond to animosity with love.
“Good and evil can never be equal. Repel (evil) with that which is better, and see how, then, someone between whom and you was enmity shall become a true friend” Quran (41: 34).