Monday evening, Eastern Michigan University got a visit from a major force within the Muslim community. Dr. Ahmaney Jamal, assistant professor of politics at Princeton University, came to talk about the state of Muslim Americans eight years after Sept. 11, 2001.
Just on her name alone, many people of the community, young and old, came to hear her speak.
During her nearly two-hour lecture, Jamal spoke about how Americans feel toward Muslim Americans, the terrorist attacks of last year and the feelings of young, Muslim Americans in the United States.
“It is common knowledge that if there is indeed another attack or incident similar to what happened on 9-11, the Muslim American community will not be able to sustain itself in this country,” Jamal said regarding the recent attempted terrorist attack on Christmas.
“Anybody in the Muslim American population will tell you that Muslim Americans have been very much invested in enhancing U.S. security efforts to weed out terrorism because Muslims don’t want to be in a position where they’re defending theirselves and their children against the backlash that might be overwhelming,” she said.
The Muslim Student Association was a part of the many organizations that were involved in getting the University of Michigan graduate to EMU.
“Our former president of MSA knew Dr. Ahmaney and she’s very well known in the academic community concerning Arabic Americans that are Muslim Americans,” said Maayad Mahmoud, public relations specialist for the MSA
“We worked very hard to having her commit to coming here and it worked very well for her. It’s a good exposure for the university and in many ways helped create this Middle Eastern studies program on campus.”
“It also will educate our campus on a lot of issues Muslims face,” Mahmoud said.
While Ahmaney spoke about some positive things related to the Muslim American Community — such as Rashad Hussain and the first Muslim woman to be appointed to a position on President Obama’s administration team, Dalia Mogahed — most of the lecture covered negative information about the state of Muslim Americans in the United States.
“43 percent of Americans say they are prejudiced against Muslims,” Ahmaney said.
While this might be a result of the recent terrorist attack, Ahamaney mentioned the U.S. is giving extra attention to the Muslim American community. Instead, she believes people should start looking at the intelligence failures that led to the Christmas day attack as well as the attack at Fort Hood in the fall of last year.
“The Christmas Day terrorist attack originated from abroad and has al-Qaeda all over it,” she said. “The Fort Hood incident resides in the military, so the military should have a handle over the situation there.”
After both attacks, many Muslim Americans feel they are under strict surveillance, especially in the airport. Ahmaney spoke of her own experiences traveling since the recent attacks.
“I personally have traveled three times since the Christmas Day attack on airplanes, and each day I traveled I’ve been padded down as a Muslim,” she said as the audience gasped in response.
“Why don’t you just make it easier for Muslims and passengers [and] just have a Muslim-only line in an airport and get it over with because this is nonsense,” Ahmaney said.
“What we see is pressure on the Obama administration to demonstrate that he is serious on national security and fighting terrorism, and, hence, the logical thing to do is basically say what we’re going to do is start airport profiling all over again,” Ahmaney said.
She also went on to talk about how different the feelings are of second-generation Muslim
Americans and immigrant Muslim Americans.
According to her statistics, more than 80 percent of immigrant Muslim Americans felt as though they’d never been discriminated against. While Ahmaney believed that was a lie, she mentioned younger Muslims felt extremely different.
“We found in several studies that the Muslim Americans born in this country said it is increasingly believing that they will never be accepted in America as equal citizens,” Ahmaney said. “They will always be singled out and its OK, and their religion is their identity and it’s not compatible with mainstream identity,” she said.
“Hopefully, next time I visit Eastern Michigan I will report more positive statistics,” she said smiling.
“I thought it was very inspirational and extremely eye opening,” Tara Burnett said.
The senior studying in sociology came out to hear Ahmaney speak to take advantage of an extra credit opportunity in one of her classes.
“It made me proud that we have people in the Muslim community that are proud to be Americans. And it makes me think that I need to try harder to be a good American when looking to what this country really does stand for,” Burnett said.
As the speech came to a close, Ahmaney urged the Muslim American community to stop talking about the issues it faces and instead get involved in the community and reach out to others in order to promote change.
Suraya Nahlawi, a sophomore studying dietetics couldn’t agree more.
“Not only [did she speak on] things that I already know, but it was an eye opener of things I need to continue to do everyday. It’s nice to see someone who has my opinions,” Nahlawi said.
“I’m not scared to say my opinions, but sometimes it’s taboo on what the subjects are because sometimes people aren’t always willing to talk to you,” she said in response to Ahmaney’s closing remarks.
“Even with Eastern’s open and diverse environment, there’s still some tension there.”