This year more than ever, intermingled among all the students who walk the hot August streets of D.C., are women who have decided to pass up tank tops, shorts and sandals for scarves and long, loose-fitting clothing.
We pass them on the way to the Marvin Center, they sit in our classes and they find some way to make it through these hot D.C. summers. You can’t be a GW student and not interact with a “scarf head.” Yet, how many of us actually pause and wonder, who are these individuals so integrated in our academic scene? If you have not thought about it, you should.
No one can deny that Muslim students make up a large portion of this campus and of the U.S. population. What is remarkable is not the numbers themselves, but that we find the numbers unremarkable. Few people ask questions, and even fewer know the answers.
The Muslim Students Association (MSA) has set up information tables, lectures, dinners and other events to help members of the GW population understand their Muslim fellow students. Indeed, the MSA of GW is a nationally recognized program other universities look to for programming and leadership.
We should make more of an attempt to use the resources at GW to learn who Muslims are and how they are different – as well as how they are similar – to us. The last count of Muslims on campus totaled more than 2,000 students – international students from Malaysia; first-generation Americans from Tennessee; blond, blue-eyed converts from exotic places such as Long Island. They may not all wear scarves, but are a real and large part of our community. A part of our community about which too many of us are still ignorant.
It does not take a critical eye to notice the population of Muslims has vastly increased in the last few years. But if you are looking, you also will notice that along with a growth in population, the number of Muslim organizations is booming as well. This year, groups range from a political action committee (PAC) to a medical students association, as well as special issues groups and even a new publication. These organizations are open to Muslims as well as non-Muslims as a tool to learn about the people, the religion and the issues.
Today more than ever, Islam is the hottest topic around. Learn more about it. The cheap movies with bearded men and bombs and women enshrouded in black are outdated and insulting to the information consumer. Whether you are into Middle Eastern studies or a pre-med who needs to understand the cultural needs of an American-Muslim patient, groups exist out there to prepare and educate you for the real world.
Some things you cannot learn in the classrooms, but you can experience them at GW.
-The writer is a senior majoring in communications and biology.