September 14, 2001

Arab Students Find Peace, Anger at C.U.

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Across the nation there have been reports of attacks against people of Arab origin, evidence of misled acts of revenge against civilians without actual ties to the terrorist groups that may have perpetrated the World Trade Center tragedies.

At Cornell, some Muslim and Arab students do not fear actual violence as part of a possible backlash to Tuesday’s terrorist acts, according to the president of Cornell’s Muslim Educational and Cultural Association (MECA).

“I don’t think it’s possible at Cornell, where everyone is highly educated,” said Khaled Al-Banaa, regarding the possibility of reprisals and threats on campus.

The reaction from some students, however, was seemingly hostile.

“I could feel the anger in their eyes,” Al-Banaa said, recalling the looks he received while he was listening to the radio at Trillium.

Other Muslim students complained about receiving “funny looks” and worried about the incidents that have already occurred around the country.

Concerns have been voiced about misrepresentation in the media and misunderstanding among peers. In fact, several students refused to be interviewed for this story for fear of being typecast and possibly threatened.

“People should realize that Osama bin Laden does not represent the Arab community,” said Junaid Ahmed ’02, a member of the Pakistani Student Association.

“The media should also not jump to any conclusions until the government finds concrete evidence on the crimes,” Ahmed said.

In a previously published statement to The Sun, the Arab Club and MECA wrote, “Contrary to common stereotypes, Islam demands tolerance, kindness and respect of all people.”

Arab students feel they share equally in the collective grief of all Americans.

“We are part of the Cornell community and we are struggling [just like] everyone else,” said Al-Banaa.

The University is prepared for the possibility of any range of demonstrations on campus.

“The University has asked students in President [Hunter R.] Rawling’s address not to be fast to judge because of perceived religion and national origins,” said Robert Harris, vice provost of diversity and faculty development.

In his speech at Tuesday’s vigil, Rawlings advised members of the Cornell community to make “no premature judgments about the perpetrators of these acts.”

According to Harris, “[Director of the International Students and Scholars Office] Brendan O’Brien has contacted students to inform them of the University’s concern for their welfare and to let them know the University will do everything to protect them.”

Archived article by Liz Novak