Tursunay Ziyawudun, a Uighur Muslim who survived China’s Xinjiang concentration camp, spoke to Cornellians on Monday about international solidarity and her experience of human rights violations at the hands of the Chinese government.
For the Muslim community at Cornell this year, this year’s final weeks will be more complicated than usual. For the first time in nearly a decade, Ramadan — a month-long holy period that requires adherents to avoid eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset — will coincide with the study period.
Long before I became a regular columnist for The Sun, I sent in a letter to the editor about being a Muslim student at Cornell. If I’m being honest, the article could have been a feel-good piece, but it turned out to be more of an angry rant about a series of unpleasant interactions I had during my first year. I’ll admit that it was written somewhat from a place of cynicism, and most definitely from a place of bitterness. Some things weren’t phrased in as polished a way as they could have been, but can you blame me? I was a furious freshman, and an idiot.
Following the terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, a community vigil will be hosted on Monday from 5 – 6 p.m at the Muslim Chaplaincy in Ho Plaza. At the meanwhile, Cornellians have been coping with the tragedy through group prayer and discussion of issues that lead to the attack.
If I’m being completely honest, I hated Cornell when I first started attending. It was nothing personal, it was mainly just a combination of homesickness, intimidation and the infamous adjustment period. Unfortunately, my so-called adjustment period felt more like a chronic state and lasted much, much longer than I anticipated. When I look back at my time here — something that I tend to do a lot these days as it’s my last semester — I realize that the primary reason I got through it, and eventually began to love Cornell, was because of the mentors I’ve had along the way. In my freshman year, against this background of inner turmoil and a sense of not fitting in, I was simultaneously trying to orient myself onto the pre-med track.
The lecture focused on the mass “re-education” camps in Xinjiang, where more than one million Uyghurs are held against their will to undergo political indoctrination, according to the Human Rights Watch.
When I decided to put on the hijab, I was 18 years old. It was the summer of 2015, right before I left for college. It also just happened to be before Donald Trump announced that he was running for president, before Ahmed Mohamed’s arrest, before the hashtag “Stop Islam” trended, before the Muslim Ban made headlines, before countless anti-Islam protests and hate crimes, and certainly before I overheard a professor saying, “it’s a bad time to be a Muslim.”
And even before all of that, I had prepared myself for the worst. Needless to say, it wasn’t long before wearing a hijab began to feel like I was voluntarily putting a target on my forehead. Walking around campus my first few weeks at Cornell was intimidating to say the least.