Panelists discuss Muslim student difficulties

Chris Wilcox
Contributing writer

Seven panelists met with the University community Thursday nightchallenges and hardships facing Islamic followers on campus as well as the dangers of profiling others.

The meeting was held in the south common room of Richmond College.

Jody Cofer, academic program specialist and member of the President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion, moderated the event.

“This is not a simple panel discussion,” Cofer said.

The panel’s main purpose in meeting is to learn what Murray State can do to show respect for cultural challenges, Cofer said.

The seven panelists speaking for the night were Brian Clardy, Abdulrahman Yarali, Ihsan Alkhatib, Ibraheem Alkahtani, Katie Gaines, Michael Basile and Taufiq Rashid.

After introductions, the panelists one-by-one shared their viewpoints with the audience.

“Human beings are more similar than they are different,” Clardy, assistant professor in the department of history, said.

He said it was extremists who have ruined the perspective of the majority.

In the case of 9/11, he asked, if people could judge an entire race by the action of 19 people.

“We must build bridges of understanding,” he said in conclusion.

Following Clardy, Gaines, graduate student from Henderson, Ky., and member of human development and leadership, said the issues that come with the misunderstanding of another religion, another culture were the reasons dictating the need for discussions.

The inability to understand and dislike another’s race stems from not understanding the Islamic religion, Gaines said.

Alkahtani, graduate student from Murray, said there are more than 300 Muslim students and families within the community and that he would like to see the University help end the misunderstandings between each other.

In addition to the previous statement, Yarali, associate professor of telecommunications systems management, said the Muslim Student Association is present on every major university throughout the U.S.

In order to understand one another people must broaden their vocabulary for other religions, he said.

“We must also realize there are bad people in every faith,” Alkhatib, assistant professor in the department of government, law and international affairs, said.

Michael Basile, visiting professor in education studies, said he lived for two years in a Turkish village and not once did he feel in harm’s way.

The residents were just curious, he said.

“There has been a cultural undercurrent that has made (Americans) very misunderstanding of the Islamic culture,” Rashid, senior lecturer in the department of history, said.

“I think the main purpose of discussion was to try and learn more about other religions, especially Islam; by understanding others we fall less into fear,” Marcie Siders, junior from Dover, Tenn., said.

The panel concluded with Cofer reiterating the point of understanding. Plans of hosting other panels concerning diversity were also discussed.

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