In the face of national attention on religious issues that surfaced after the Fort Hood shootings early this month, Muslim students on campus said discrimination is not an issue at GW.
Azra Hyder, president of the Muslim Student Association, said being Muslim in America is different, but she feels no discrimination because of her faith.
“We’re a very, very small minority,” the senior said. “At every second you know you’re different. You feel it. It’s something you have to get used to.”
Despite these differences, Hyder said she has never personally experienced any discrimination in her years at GW and has found the student body to be very open-minded about religion.
Junior Jehan Morsi agreed, saying discrimination at GW is not a major issue.
“I have a lot of friends from all around,” Morsi said. “We all take classes with different types of people. If anybody has felt differently or felt the need to discriminate against Muslims, I haven’t heard it.”
The Nov. 5 shooting – in which Army Maj. Nidal M. Hasan allegedly killed 13 people and wounded 30 more – unearthed a series of questions across the country about Hasan, his Muslim faith, and his communications with an alleged al-Qaeda sympathizer in the Middle East.
Hyder said she had observed no change in how she’s been treated since the incident.
“[It] was terrifying. It was just preposterous,” she said of the shooting. “You don’t hear something like that happen on a daily basis, not in this country, anyway.”
Junior Hassaan Sohail, an international affairs major originally from Pakistan, said while he experienced no discrimination on campus since the shooting, the media’s attention to the shootings fosters negative perpections about the Muslim faith.
“Clearly in the media this is an ongoing issue,” he said. “I haven’t been discriminated against since the incident, but there’s always been this loaded talk in the media about extremism and radicalism and ‘some of them are extremists, and some of them are moderates,’ and I believe that’s actually pretty dangerous. These are such loaded terms, and they are being tossed around all the time.”
He added, “I think this is just one small incident, an unfortunate incident, and it has the potential to be blown out of proportion and to be used as another excuse to commit hate crimes against a certain population.”
Commander Joseph Arleth, second in command in GW’S Naval Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program, said he believes Americans know this was an individual’s action, not a testament of the Muslim faith.
“I haven’t noticed any change or discrimination or even a sort of attitudal shift since Fort Hood, because I think most people realize it’s the act of an individual, not a comment on an entire faith,” he said.
Arleth, who spent a period of time in Bahrain, said his experiences in the Middle East taught him that “religious tolerance is part of what [Muslims] believe, by and large,” and he thinks “folks in United States are starting to understand that.”