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Abigail Taylor, Contributing Writer • April 16, 2024

“Being Muslim in America”

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By: Mikala McBride, Contributing Writer

On the evening of Feb. 20, Dr. Omid Safi, a professor of Asian and Middle Eastern studies at Duke University, delivered a lecture to a crowd of Wofford students, professors and community members.

In his talk “Being Muslim in America: Americans, Muslims and the Middle East in a World of Conflict,” Safi asked a question amongst a tense political atmosphere focused on recent discussion of Islamic terrorism: “What do you think about me, my faith, my humanity and my community that you would think any of us would ever be in agreement with something like this?”

Islamic scholars from around the world unanimously denounce ISIS, but there seems to be a lack of media coverage of this theme. The recent concern over Islamic terrorism has also led to a change in American policy. Safi explained that Donald Trump plans to change the combat of terrorism to cover only “radical Islamic terrorism.” In general, he notes that “when a white person commits an act of terrorism, he’s regarded as a lone wolf,” contrary to the reaction Muslim terrorists receive. Safi explained that Islam is generally misunderstood by Americans as a radical faith, only further perpetuated by the current political climate.

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Sufi also discussed the new immigration policy that has risen under Donald Trump. Since his ban of immigrants from seven Muslim-majority nations, Islamic terrorism has risen as a topic of debate in the U.S., especially concerning refugees.

He was quick to shut down the notion that Syrian refugees are terrorists, saying that “to treat them as terrorists is to revictimize them.” Safi disputed claims that banning immigrants is un-American, because it is “actually reminiscent of the ugliest periods of American history.” Rather than allowing this to continue, though, he suggested that all people, despite religious affiliation, welcome refugees.

Safi did not allow other minorities to fall through the cracks of discussion. Carol Morel ’17 related to his lecture because of his mention of Hispanics and other groups that feel marginalized by western society such as African Americans, women and the LGBTQ community. Morel noted that understanding the institutional bias that dominated Western society allowed her to better appreciate Safi’s lecture.

Zainab Bhagat ’20, a Muslim-American Wofford Student, personally related to the talk. “I associate myself with being American but I also associate myself with being Muslim,” she says. “I don’t think those two things are mutually exclusive.” Safi’s ability to bring together different groups of people to spread his message of love resonated well with Bhagat in particular.

Bhagat appreciates the strides Wofford has made to promote diversity and inclusion, especially with this talk. Dr. Omid Safi has started a discussion on the Wofford campus – one that many hope can change the negative climate surrounding Muslims.

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    Robert C. WilliamsMar 7, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    Was this presentation recorded for those of us who were not able to come to campus that night? YouTube?

    Thanks,
    Robert C. Williams
    Wofford ’67
    Hickory, NC