When Umair Khan ’03 heard of the national tragedies last Tuesday, he reacted first like every other American, with concern and fear that his family members and loved ones may have been injured. He reacted second as an Arab American, with terror that the U.S. response to the attacks would target the Muslim and Arab American community.
As a result of such concerns, Khan and members of the Muslim Educational and Cultural Association (MECA) and the local Arab community have come together to gather on Ho Plaza for two purposes.
The first objective was to raise money for the victims at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in southwest Pennsylvania. Secondly, MECA aimed to demonstrate to the Cornell community that the Muslims and Arabs are distinct groups from the perpetrators of the attacks on the U.S, according to Khan, the vice president of the Arab Club at Cornell University.
“We are mourning just like all other Americans,” said Nassir Memon ’04, MECA member. “We have lost friends in the bombing [along with many others].”
However, as Khan stated, “The American media has equated terrorism with a specific faith and background, one that is generalized to include all members of the Arab and Muslim community.”
“Generalization out of ignorance is our biggest enemy,” he said.
These generalizations have led Americans to associate an entire group with a very small number of extremists, according to Mendi Baladi ’01, MECA member.
“I am scared for myself because of the recent threats [to the Muslim and Arab communities] in other states since this tragedy, and I am scared for my family that lives in Pakistan,” said Shen Husain ’01, another member of MECA. “My father warned me about leaving Ithaca because he fears for me.”
According to Vice President for Student and Academic Services Susan H. Murphy ’73, the administration has taken steps to ensure the safety of the Muslim and Arab community at Cornell. “We have made many services available to them, as we will for all students and groups affected,” Murphy said.
Members of the administration have met with students from MECA and other groups such as the Arab Association in order to discuss students’ concerns, Khan said. And students have been very receptive of MECA’s efforts, he added. “Except for some isolated ignorant comments from students passing by the tables, most students have been very supportive.”
Brad Schnedel ’03 said he was impressed by MECA’s drive to raise money for the victims and to show the Cornell community that they are also suffering from the tragedy.
“In the same way that [the Muslim and Arab communities] are helping to raise money to help the victims, we should help them because they are part of our community,” said Mirna Cardona ’03.
Similarly, Prof. Elizabeth Sanders, government, reminded her class of “the need to reassure the [Muslim and Arab] community that our opposition to terrorism is not opposition to their faith or religion.”
Last Friday, MECA collected $1,800 for the funds started by the administration. These funds will be donated to the Red Cross, the United Way, and Cornellians who have lost family in the tragedy.
Archived article by Jamie Yonks