Stony Brook Student Exercise Tackles Predjudice Head-On
A mixed faith group challenged their beliefs and understanding of the Muslim experience in a program aimed at combating prejudice.
Photos by Bob Giglione
Students at Stony Brook University learn many things, but on a recent evening some learned a real-life lesson in how it feels to be a victim of discrimination. A Muslim woman walks into a bakery wearing a hijab, a head covering that symbolizes a commitment to piety and identifies women as followers of Islam. The sales clerk refuses to serve her and continually taunts her about her appearance. Some customers are outraged and speak out on her behalf, but the majority of them do nothing. This scene could be real, but it actually was part of a television show, and the clerk and Muslim woman were actors.
“What Would You Do,” seen on ABC’s Primetime show, gauges people’s reactions — capturing on film whether they will or will not step in to right an injustice. On April 7, it was presented by the Muslim Student’s Association and the Women’s Gender Resources Center at a solidarity event called Scarves for Solidarity.
The initiative to celebrate diversity and combat stereotypes, attended by Stony Brook University President Shirley Strum Kenny, is part of Newsday’s FutureCorps, an initiative engaging local students in meaningful community service.
“We fast, raise money and donate it to charities,” said MSA President Yaser Rad. “The purpose was to get non-Muslim women to wear head scarves and be in their shoes for one day. Money will be donated to a battered women’s shelter.”
About one-third of those gathered were non-Muslims. Junior Anna Holland usually wears a scarf around her neck, but tonight she wore her scarf around her head to show solidarity with Muslim women.
Sophomore Aarti Sheth, also a non-Muslim wearing a hijab, said, “The movie really touched me. It was so real and that’s why it was so scary and upsetting.” Lindsay Bernard, a junior, said, “I wanted to show my support for Muslim women and the challenges of wearing the hijab every day. It’s a small price to pay.” Chaplain Sanaa Nadim said, “Muslim women are a sisterhood and part and parcel of the American fabric. We are lawyers, teachers and so much more. It is essential that they stand together as a whole.”
—By Lynn Zawacki