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Muslims talk identity and intersectionality at panel

Muslims talk identity and intersectionality at panel

Imam Aiyub Abdul Baki, Chair of Social Justice Committee of Majlis Ash-Shura in NYC, speaks to Hofstra students about the complexities of identifying with multiple identities.

It is often difficult for individuals belonging to minority groups to express every part of themselves and their intersectional identities. A recent panel organized by the Muslim Students Association (MSA), Collegiate Women of Color, Honors College and the Center for Race, Culture and Social Justice, discussed how the Muslim identity is influenced by politics, public life and activism.

Moderated by Hofstra’s professor of anthropology Timothy Daniels, the panel featured the Chair of the Social Justice Committee of Majlis Ash-Shura NYC Imam Aiyub Abdul-Baqi, Hofstra sociology professor Dr. Nazreen Bacchus and Dr. Shaireen Rasheed, a philosophy professor at Long Island University.

“Intersectionality is belonging to different groups,” said MSA treasurer and junior biochemistry major Aisha Jawara when introducing the panel. Jawara explained how it is difficult to be Muslim, a woman and a person of color all at once. “People always want to underline one part of you, but that’s not possible … we are all of these things.”

The panel discussed the role of religion in the lives of Muslims, as well as how the media and public regarded them before and after 9/11.

“I want people to know that we [Muslims] are peaceful; we just want to have conversations,” Jawara said. “We just want people to know who we really are and not how media portrays us in a negative way. Every group has a group of people [within it] who are negative, but the majority of us are not.”

Bacchus also reflected on her experiences as a Muslim woman post-9/11 and how the perspective of Muslims has changed dramatically.

“I don’t wear a hijab every day,” she said. “But when I do, I notice that people treat me differently, even on this campus.” Bacchus and the other speakers heavily discussed this kind of racism, especially toward Muslims who practice religion openly, versus more “moderate” Muslims.

Elaborating on this, Rasheed compared the moderation of Muslims to buffalo wings. “The moderation of Muslims has to be just spicy enough, not too spicy as not to scare you; moderate Islam is tolerable, but people who are visibly Muslim are somehow considered threatening,” Rasheed said.  

College and community groups play a major role in increasing visibility of different minority groups. “Any sort of group that exists as a space for students to meet other students and other Islamic students, certainly helps increase visibility,” said Sarah DrePaul, a junior anthropology major.

DrePaul went on to say that intersecting identities can sometimes create complications and confusion. “If you are a black woman, sometimes mainstream feminism doesn’t always benefit you because your race interferes with how society views you besides the fact that you’re a woman.”

This kind of oppression in the Muslim community binds a multitude of people with different backgrounds together with one common ground: confronting the issues of racism and prejudice against minority groups. “We cannot move forward as women and Muslims without looking at social justice and identifying with other oppressed groups,” Rasheed said.  

“It’s important to recognize that there are no boundaries,” said Tahmid Parves, a freshman biomedical engineering major. “You can be black and Muslim, you can be white and Muslim – it’s open to everything.”

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