By: ALICIA FLORES
Recent political events have caused some Muslim students at IU South Bend to feel unsafe in the community. One particular student has decided to change this by starting an organization to bring students together to feel a sense of security.
This fall, senior Nargiza Amirova started the Muslim Student Association (MSA).
“I think this is a great time to start this organization especially with all the things going on outside of campus,” said Amirova. “I want both new and returning Muslim students to see they can have support from different cultures during everything going on with Donald Trump.”
Amirova along with other IUSB students who wear hijabs (headscarves) experienced harassment this past summer outside of campus.
“I think students at IUSB are unaware of how some minorities are treated when they step off campus,” said Amirova. “Some members of the community are reacting negatively by egg throwing and elbowing Muslim students.”
Amirova believes all this negativity has resulted from the current political climate.
“People are thinking that it is OK to act negatively towards minorities, so people in the community are doing it to these students because they feel like they are getting support by a future president that says it is ok,” said Amirova.
It is not only Muslim students that are being discriminated against, Amirova said. It happens to Latinos, African Americans and even LGBTQ.
Recently members of the Latino Student Union (LSU) faced discrimination while hosting a car washing fundraiser.
“One guy said we shouldn’t have the same equal rights as him,” said LSU treasurer Joel Rangel.
“Another woman drove off after we responded this was for Latino Student Union when she asked what club this was for. She didn’t even give us a chance to wash her car, which was only $5 a car.”
Amirova plans on changing this negative attitude toward minorities by teaming up with the other minority organizations on campus and going out into the community to offer volunteer work.
MSA will be allying with Latino Student Union (LSU), Black Student Union (BSU), International Club and the Civil Rights Heritage Club, according to Amirova. Queer Straight Alliance and Christian Fellowship have been invited as well.
“We plan on volunteering at homeless shelters, The Robinson Learning Center and LGBTQ Center with whatever they may need,” said Amirova. By reaching out to the community the clubs are representing IUSB and giving the community the opportunity to learn about these minorities, Amirova said.
The first step to solving this problem is education, Amirova said.
“I think the people that react negatively towards minorities do it because they are not aware of our cultures or who we are. Just because we are from different countries does not mean we should be treated negatively.”
A lot of minority students are not heard or are judged negatively in the media and public, according to Amirova.
“I don’t blame these people. I just think they are not really educated yet and need to learn more about us. We are just like them,” she said.
Amirova puts part of the blame on the media and how minorities are represented. “I think they are following the media. They just need to see we have good hearts like them and are human just like they are,” she said.
By going out into the community Amirova believes this will help show the community that minorities are good people too.
The minority clubs plan on meeting every month in an effort to plan where they will volunteer and get to know each other, according to Amirova.
“We want to show that you don’t have to be black to be in BSU, you don’t have to be Latino to be in LSU, you don’t have to be Muslim to be in the Muslim club—you can be in any of them and just learn from each other,” said Amirova.
Currently MSA has twenty members, with Amirova serving as president, and Shail Bhagat as vice president. Both Amirova and Bhagat also serve as members on the Student Government Association.
“We have a great mixture of cultures. Our treasurer is from Saudi Arabia, secretary is from Pakistan, vice president is from India and I am from Asia,” said Amirova.
MSA is not a completely new organization but one that is being brought back after years of being inactive. Director of Student Life Scott Strittmatter assisted Amirova in getting it started again.
“I learned a lot from him and began to reach out to other students,” said Amirova. “I wanted a safe zone for everyone where they can feel protected by IUSB. There are a lot of minorities who stay grouped together in their own cultures, and I want to bring them all together to get to know one another.”
MSA is open to any IUSB student. Their goal is to help the community learn more about Islam and the other unique cultures here on campus as well as assisting Muslim students in creating a community where everyone can support one another educationally, and spiritually.
MSA’s meetings will be held Tuesdays from 4 to 5 p.m. Their first all minorities club meeting is scheduled from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Oct. 11.