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The Muslim Experience at Ole Miss

By Nasia Thompson

IMC Student

Sarah Aydah

Look around. Wherever you are. Do you see others that look like you? People that you can relate to? If so, congratulations. That is a privilege a lot of others can’t relate to, and if you had different eyes your answer would be more in line with theirs. Looking through different eyes instead of seeing peers you may see judgment, hate, and sometimes curiosity.

Thousands of eyes with thousands of different stories roam the Ole Miss campus, stories waiting to be told. Some have viewed the Muslim story in particular as mysterious or unapproachable. Although theirs is the opposite of such, it is one that makes up this campus and deserves the same representation as anyone else. 

The community of Muslim students at Ole Miss is expansive and constantly growing and they all have their own stories to tell. The Muslim Student Association has been active for at least 14 years providing a space for Muslim students here at the university. The organization’s goal is to ensure that Muslim students have a place to gather and find community. 

The organization’s current president, Mohamed Marzouk, has a clear understanding of the reason this organization was founded and its purpose here on campus.

“Our main purpose is to gather the community to make sure that they feel connected with each other,” he said. “Our goal is to spread the word as to who we are and what we stand for and what we do here,” said Marzouk.

Many students come to the university having never had a group of peers in their educational environment. Sarah Aydah in particular was one of two hijabi women to attend her high school, the other being her younger sister.

During her time there, she had her first experience with racism. “Till this day I remember both of those boys’ faces,” said Aydah. They were asking her if she had ever been to a “bomb” fire, constantly taunting her on her first day at this new school and suggesting that because of her religion she was somehow connected to terrorism.

Upon coming to the Ole Miss campus, Aydah realized that this was not going to be the same environment she had become so familiar with. Here there were so many others that looked like her, so many other women who understood her hijab and what it means to her.

“It’s nice, you walk past another hijabi and they will smile or sometimes say salam and you just feel like oh my gosh there are other people like me. I see me,” said Aydah. Finding a community was like finding a pot of gold. Looking around and being able to see other people who may share similar interests, beliefs, and life experiences creates a place of home with the freedom to be yourself.

Graduate student Muna Abdelrahman had a similar experience when she came to campus last year. “When I came here last year I remembered I was so afraid of being judged because of my hijab. But I came, and I realized there are lots of hijabis on campus and that was comforting for me. I felt good about it,” said Abdelrahman.

Being here creates a sense of safety. There is a community of people who are willing to support and protect each other in their time of need because they know how it feels. They know the stereotypes that hang over their heads based on the color of their skin and the faith they were born into.

Despite the community that has formed, there still is no place for Muslim students to congregate and feel comfortable practicing their faith on campus. Aydah has been in many places where she and her people have struggled to find their own place. Employed at Baptist Memorial Hospital for the past year, Aydah and many other Muslim employees have yearned for a place to gather when they need to pray.

“We don’t want to offend anyone by praying in the chapel and we really aren’t comfortable there,” said Aydah.

This is the same on campus.

“One of the main things that they definitely need to improve on is providing us with a mosque on campus, which is only fair as the population of Muslim students is growing on campus,” said Marzouk. He says the room the club currently has is accessible but not in good condition.

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