LSA Student Government passed two resolutions that intend to create a more accepting environment for the Muslim community on the University of Michigan campus. One of the resolutions calls for condemning the global rise of Islamophobia, and the other supports a bidet initiative to make public restrooms more accomodating for Muslim students.
The need to address Islamophobia on campus was brought to attention when a copy of the Quran was damaged at Arizona State University.
Bilal Irfan, LSA SG representative and LSA freshman, said the resolution aims to break the pattern of Islamophobia worldwide, starting in Ann Arbor.
“(The first resolution) kind of looks into the global trends of Islamophobia,” Irfan said. “(The resolution) also extensively cites some of the things from the Islamophobia Working Group (IWG) and what they found on Islamophobia on campus.”
The IWG was established in 2016 to address Islamophobia in the U-M community and around the country. The IWG aims to create a safe environment for Arab, Muslim and MENA (Middle East and Northern Africa) students.
Irfan said he and Maria Wajahat, LSA SG representative and LSA freshman, drafted the resolution in response to the ASU vandalism incident.
Wajahat believes the new resolution will create a safer environment for Muslim students.
“(The ASU vandalism) invokes a lot of fear in Muslims, especially on college campuses, and it’s not something that’s unfamiliar to the University of Michigan,” Wajahat said. “There’s no saying that it won’t happen again, or that it won’t happen here the way it did at ASU. I think that this was a really good way to sort of get ahead of that and try to make Muslims feel safer on campus and just feel more accepted.”
Irfan also said other Islamophobic attacks rattled the country during the first two weeks of December such as an arson attack at a mosque in Albuquerque, N.M. on Nov. 29 and death threats against U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar. He argued the University has not done enough for Muslim students in recent years, and the resolution is a small step towards change.
“We see Islamophobia,” Irfan said. “We witnessed it in the past year. Death threats have been levied against a Muslim representative on campus who has spoken about issues that have affected Muslim students or Arab students. The university has had a very restrained response in regards to it and not specifically addressed some of the manifestations of how it has impacted Muslim students.”
Irfan also said he believes the LSA SG resolution denouncing Islamophobia will empower Muslim students on campus. He has worked closely with the IWG to take action.
“We went to the meeting of the Islamophobia Working Group just two days after the passing of the resolution to kind of see how…the university can take actionable items,” Irfan said. “Whether that be expanding reflection rooms, having bidets, areas for Muslim ablution, those types of issues that do affect Muslims, as well as awareness generally about Islamophobia.”
Irfan hopes another LSA SG resolution, this one supporting the installation of bidets in campus restrooms, will provide tangible benefits to Muslim students.
According to Irfan, the lack of bidets on campus has been an issue for many Muslim students, and LSA SG is currently trying to determine the possibility of installing bidets in the Trotter Multicultural Center or the Michigan Union.
Bidets are important in Islam because they allow for water-based ablution, or cleaning, which is called for prior to prayers. Muslims are required to clean themselves before prayers because, according to the Quran, the cleanliness of the body affects the condition of their spirit.
Although residents of University Housing can request bidets as a religious accommodation, there are no bidets in public restrooms, which Irfan said is an issue for commuters. While he views bidets as a valuable step towards inclusion, he said the University still has more work to do.
Wajahat said she thinks the bidet resolution is an important first step towards creating a safer environment for Muslim students.
“Although it does require money, it caters a lot to the Muslim population, and not just Muslim population, but also South Asian (and) East Asian populations,” Wajahat said. “And it makes them feel more accepted on campus and that the University is accommodating to them.”
Azeim said the bidet resolution is an important step for Muslim students because there has been rising tension towards the Muslim community in recent years.
“I know 2017 was just kind of a rough year for Muslims adjusting to the Trump administration and how that affected members of the students and their personal lives,” Azeim said. “And even now, trying to have our voices heard can be very difficult and often is presented with backlash and protests.”
LSA senior Mariam Azeim said she feels hopeful about the new resolutions.
“I think that this is (a great initiative) considering the lack of traction that Muslim places have had on campus for many years now,” Azeim said. “(The resolutions) make us feel heard and safe on campus.”
Daily Staff Reporter Erin Chai can be reached at email@example.com.