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Muslim students feel threatened at Concordia

By Archives September 19, 2001
Several incidents of harassment directed at Muslim students took place at Concordia last week, as a result of the tragedy in the United States. Many Muslims fear retaliation.
Most of the harassment has been against Muslim women, said Sami Nazzal, president of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR).
On Sept. 13 a Muslim woman, who wanted to remain anonymous, said she was approached by a group of students when she walked out of the Webster Library.
The woman was wearing a hijab, a traditional scarf worn by some Muslim women.
“A girl in the group recoiled in mock fright, pointed at her and screamed, ‘Oh my god, she’s gonna kill me, she’s gonna kill me.’ I walked past them and when I turned around I could see them snickering,” recounted the woman.
Yet many Muslim women remain in fear. “Many of the girls I talked to stopped going to class. Others are dropping their night classes to register in day classes where they feel the daylight will provide some safety,” said Nazzal.
Incidents such as these are not isolated cases said Sobia Virk, a biochemistry student. Many Muslim students are feeling singled out and harassed by fellow students and faculty on a daily basis, added Virk. “It is not once or twice that I’ve felt harassed. It is now almost becoming a way of life.”
Virk knows all too well the hatred directed towards Muslims. Since Sept. 11 she felt an incredible amount of hostility from some students and even experienced a few incidents of verbal harassment.
“I was walking by a group of students, when one of them asked why won’t all these terrorist go back to their countries,” said Virk.
Virk said the remark was one of the more toned down comments. She did not have the heart to utter some of the more profane remarks.
“It’s not that the racism is solely directed at women,” said Nazzal. He believes the hijab that many of the Muslim women wear provides a clear identification of their religion and therefore makes them more prone to be targets of racism.
Nazzal tried to convince many of the women to report the harassment to
authorities. But he said that the majority of them are still too afraid to step forward.
At the senate meeting on Sept. 14, rector Frederick Lowy condemned the attacks saying that Concordia University does not tolerate any form of racism.
“I was born in this country, I am just as Canadian as anybody else,” said Virk.