‘There is a stronger bond than normal’

Sophomore Farah Modi said the only place she feels safe is on campus.

“When I do go out, like to the gas station, I feel like I am being looked at, and one lady even threw change at my feet,” she said.It was because Modi is Muslim.

Muslim student at USF are trying to educate the campus about their religion in hopes that they are better understood, especially with the Sept. 11 attacks having changed their daily activities.

During Wednesday’s Bull Market, the Muslim Student Association set up a tent to talk about the Muslim religion.

The religion, for the past month, has been associated with terrorism. Yet, from 9 a.m.-2 p.m., with lots of wind and sunny skies, the MSA wanted to help USF students understand them and answer any questions they may have had. The students had pamphlets around the tent to give information on the Muslim religion and the organization.

The Muslim students said they are being treated as “non-Americans” because of the dirty looks and feelings of insecurity in different places.

“All non-Muslims can continue their daily life activities,” junior Rose Munoz said. “Muslims are hindered on their daily activities now.”

Since Sept. 11, the students have not ventured into the city as much.

“I haven’t gone shopping in a long time,” freshman Mehnaz Ismail said. “Mainly because of fear.”

The terrorist attacks have brought on a lot of harassment to the Muslim community.

“When I went to the mall, security officers followed me around,” Munoz said. “There was always one cop ahead of me and people followed me around.”

Munoz said that she is saddened that people treat others like “non-Americans” in America.

Yet, the Muslim students said overall, they feel safer on campus than anywhere else in Tampa. They said students have come up to them and asked questions about the Muslim religion. Other students have said to the Muslim students that they pretty much understand them.

Jenn Valko, a sophomore who is also a part of the MSA, said things have settled down since the attacks.

“Right after, (the attacks) I still felt safe (on campus),” Valko said. “I was a little nervous, but I got a lot of support from strangers. After a month, I still feel OK.”

Ismail agrees with Valko.

“On campus I feel pretty much safe,” she said. “There are a lot of Muslims on campus and we are sticking together.”

The MSA have their own support group to help each other out if needed.

“We can contact each other, if we need help,” Valko said. “It brings us together to be supportive of each other.”Modi said that she feels safe being a Muslim woman. “I don’t think we need our brothers,” she said. “We (women) travel together.”

The students said there is enough support on campus. They walk each other to class or even drive with each other to school.”There is a stronger bond than normal, we have become closer,” Ismail said.

The students didn’t want to talk about the attacks in Afghanistan, and didn’t want to take a political stance. But they wanted to let their feelings be heard.

“I really appreciate the random people who stop me,” Ismail said. “It shows me that they understand and are on our side too.”Overall, the students said that things haven’t gotten worse. But the community has heard stories about other Muslims being harassed.

“I’ve gotten extra dirty looks but that’s it,” Valko said.Munoz also agrees with Valko but said it’s still not right.

“It’s an unneeded terror in our lives,” she said.

  • Contact Stefanie Greenat oraclestefanie@yahoo.com