Bushra Ibrahim stayed home from class on April 3.
The date was declared “Punish a Muslim Day,” after anonymous letters in March in East London. The letters encouraged citizens to abuse Muslim people and listed point-based rewards — like 10 points for verbal abuse or 2,500 points to “Nuke Mecca.”
Ibrahim, a senior English major, said that although this campaign originated in England, she feared the implications it could have in the United States because of post-9/11 Islamophobia.
“Years later, the effect of Islamophobia is still upon us,” Ibrahim said. “I do love the message of freedom and democracy the country promotes, but some do not act on it, so I have to deal with that.”
In a 2017 study by the Pew Research Center, 23 percent of Muslims living in the United States who responded said discrimination, racism and prejudice were the most important problems facing modern Muslims in the nation today. Ignorance and misconceptions of Islam were listed as second most important to this community.
Ibrahim said she takes precautions to stay safe in certain environments. When walking, Ibrahim stays on main roads with her phone in her hand. In her academic and professional lives, she schedules classes and work during the day due to fear of walking by herself at night.
Ibrahim said she avoids conversations about Islam, her lifestyle and commentary on politics or terrorism if she thinks her words could be misinterpreted.
Leila Kammoun, a junior economics major, said she has also experienced Islamophobia. In middle school and high school in Media, Pennsylvania, Kammoun said she was outcasted by her classmates because of her hijab. As an adult, she has faced bigotry in public spaces.
For example, this happened once at a coffee shop in Atlanta. Kammoun lived there with her husband at the time, and said she visited the shop to study for a class. A man approached her and told her to “go back to where she was from” and to “free herself from her hijab.” The coffee shop was full, but nobody helped her, she said.
“No one did anything until I left crying,” she said. “When I returned to get my things, everyone who didn’t say anything suddenly had something to say.”
Kammoun added that she was comforted by a Muslim man who told her not to put any weight on the man’s words.
Kammoun said she believes Philadelphians do not have as strong prejudices against Muslims as people in Atlanta or Media. She said being active in her Muslim community in Media, and traveling back and forth to Lebanon to visit her family, helped her to not internalize these stigmas.
Tatiana Martin is an Allied Universal safety officer stationed at Beech International on Cecil B. Moore Avenue near Sydenham Street and wears a hijab with her uniform. She said she feels safe on Main Campus.
She said one of her worst experiences happened when a student accused her of thinking he was a terrorist.
“I couldn’t understand why he would think that of me when I wear my hijab with my uniform,” Martin said.
But to Ibrahim, seeing Muslim women in security positions gives her an additional layer of safety on campus.
“The women always greet me with ‘As-Salaam-Alaikum,’ and it’s comforting to be treated with the same generosity that I put forth,” Ibrahim said.
“For a while, I constantly thought about why I wear my hijab,” Ibrahim added. “Over time, I understood that I wanted to wear it because it represents my beliefs and modesty. I’m proud to represent myself as a Muslim woman and, I don’t think I could ever stop wearing it.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect the correct name for Allied Universal, which was previously called Allied Barton.