The members of Temple University’s Muslim Student Association (MSA) are united against the war with Iraq.
The organization “is 100 percent opposed to any military action against Iraq,” according to a statement made several weeks ago by MSA president and sophomore Waqar Rehman.
At an MSA meeting last Friday attended by about 30 Muslim students, individual members voiced their opposition to the war.
“The Bush administration says this is a war to liberate the people of Iraq,” said freshman Shadid Mohiuddin.
“But are you supposed to liberate the Iraqi people by shooting Tomahawk missiles at them?”
The students said they did not support Saddam Hussein and they resented the way President George W. Bush characterized the conflict in black and white terms.
“Bush said that you are either with us or with Saddam,” said junior Journalism major Rafif Safi.
“Just because we oppose the war doesn’t make us pro-Saddam.”
Muslim students also expressed their frustration with American news coverage of the war.
Several MSA members accused American cable news networks of failing to show the Iraqi side of the conflict and the extent of civilian suffering.
“If you look at the news coverage [of the war] on television, it’s press conference after press conference,” said Safi.
“They talk to generals and analysts and embedded reporters but they don’t talk to Iraqis. You don’t see what the Iraqi civilians are going through.”
Some members were angered by the treatment of the Arab satellite news network Al-Jazeera.
The Qatar-based network has been criticized by the Bush administration for showing graphic footage of POWs and dead coalition soldiers.
Al-Jazeera has drawn praise from Arabs and Muslims around the world for reporting on the war from an Arab perspective.
The network’s English-language Web site came under hacker attack soon after it went live on March 24 by a group calling itself “The Freedom Cyber Force Militia.”
“What does this say about freedom of the press?” said Temple alumna Fatima Yasin, who graduated with a master’s degree in Film and Media Arts.
“America is supposed to be about freedom of the press. But the [American] media isn’t showing how the Iraqis are being terrorized.”
Yasin went on to criticize the American media for ignoring the plight of Muslims throughout the years.
“The media now looks closely at Iraq because of the war,” she said.
“But we Muslims have been around and suffering for years… The Palestinians have been suffering for years before the Iraqis but the press is only focusing on Muslims now.”
Rehman said after the meeting that some MSA members may be reluctant to speak out publicly.
“Throughout the country Muslims are under surveillance and their civil liberties are being violated,” he said.
“So some people are reluctant to speak out against the war.”
Rehman also said in an earlier interview that Temple’s MSA was on the alert for hate crimes and acts of discrimination.
He said that Temple University Police had spoken to the organization to assure its members they would be protected if war broke out.
In the week after September 11, 2001, the offices of the MSA were broken into and vandalized and Muslim students also reporterd being subjected to physical and verbal abuse.
Individual MSA members stated that they have not been subjected to hate crimes or acts of discrimination since the crisis with Iraq began.
But Rehman has contacted other Muslim student organizations in Philadelphia area schools, to be safe.
“I’ve called MSAs at Penn, Drexel University and other schools,” he said.
“We wanted to be able to coordinate efforts in the event that there are hate crimes.”
Jerome Montes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.