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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

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Islamophobia Awareness Week kicks off with informational event

At the end of the meeting, Singh discussed several “data-driven ways to reduce Islamophobia,” as written on the presentation slideshow. Courtesy Ayla Satchu

Tulane University’s inaugural Islamophobia Awareness Week began Monday in an effort to educate students on discrimination and acknowledge its harms to society. 

Annelise Singh, chief diversity officer and professor of social work, and Shelby Norman, program manager for the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion led the first event. They invited members of the Tulane community to listen and engage in a discussion that defined Islamophobia, its relevance to Tulane and its societal impact. 

Presenters defined Islamophobia based on the United Nations’ definition as the attribution of biased hatred towards Muslim-identifying people. This prejudice comes in various forms like violent hostility, hate crimes and discriminatory rhetoric that occurs throughout the media and the real world. Islamophobic ideas often associate Muslim people with terrorism and radical support for their identity.

“[Islamophobia] can be motivated by institutional ideological, political and religious hostility,” Norman said in the event. “Ultimately, this can potentially transcend into structural and cultural racism, or Islamophobia that targets symbols and markers of being ‘visibly Muslim.’”

Norman said when Muslim people face connotations of terrorism and violence, it harms and destructs the identity group. 

“Associating a group of people with something like terrorism or extremism is not only unsafe and harmful, but ultimately violent,” Norman said. “[It is] utilizing rhetorical violence against these communities.”

Singh spoke to how Muslim people are portrayed in modern media and how the media works to identify Muslim perpetrators. She said that these perpetrators receive “qualitatively different media coverage” than non-Muslim perpetrators. 

 “[The Muslim community] is a small community in the U.S. with an outsized impact in terms of how things land on their heads and how Islamophobia gets internalized in ways we may not even be realizing,” Singh said. “What are you scrolling through? What are you taking in on the news?”

Anti-Muslim-media bias exists alongside legal bias, which leads to longer prison sentences and intensified legal charges for Muslim-identifying people, according to Singh.

“Why are we seeing these inequities? There’s something that’s being fueled by the media. There [are] some inequities in our legal system that again, kind of combust to create an environment that is scared,” Singh said.

Norman discussed how Islamophobia is prevalent in educational systems and among youth groups. Teachers lack awareness and knowledge surrounding religious complexities, and certain biases are often present, according to an article Norman mentioned from School Psychology Review. Norman said this lack of awareness by educational administrations leads to bullying and communitywide bias. 

“Students who are experiencing this bullying are taking these experiences and they are traversing with them throughout the entirety of their life,” Norman said. “[There is a] lack of trust in terms of infrastructure and authoritative structures that are supposed to be supporting these infrastructural tools to support Muslim communities.”

According to Singh, approximately 1% of the undergraduate student population at Tulane identifies as Muslim. Norman said the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion is working with their bias working group and harm reduction council to track bias reports and intervene.

“We are working in tandem and in connection with them to make sure that we’re making Tulane a more equitable and inclusive space,” Norman said. “[We are] making sure that we’re not only just tracking the incidents, but making sure that we’re connecting directly with those who are affected by them as well.”

At the end of the meeting, Singh discussed several “data-driven ways to reduce Islamophobia,” as written on the presentation slideshow. One method was to build connections with other communities and identities that are harmed by societal bias. Additionally, working to demystify Islam, promoting understanding and connection between different religions and making friends who identify as Muslim.

Tulane’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and student groups like the Islamophobia Working Group, Muslim Student Alliance and the Middle Eastern and North African Faculty and Staff Affinity Group worked to create the weeklong schedule of events that address Islamophobia. On Tuesday, programming held a film screening of the movie “Stranger at the Gate.” On Wednesday, there was a virtual conversation with “National Expert, Dr. Amer Ahmed and Tulane Student Maliha Lodhi.” On Friday, an off-campus excursion will take place to “Uptown Masjid al-Rahma for Jammah prayers and a visit with the Imam.”

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