#NOBAN: Black Muslim Students at FAMU on Life under the Trump Administration & the Relationships with Non-Muslims on Campus
By: Angelique Fullwood
On the same day Donald Trump came to Tallahassee for a presidential election rally at the Tallahassee Car Museum, first year civil engineering student Abdul Razak Brimah left the Café while wearing his Muslim Student Association shirt. While he was walking up a stair case, another FAMU student stopped and asked him the meaning of the design and texts on his shirt. Brimah thought his peer was just commenting on the aesthetic of the graphic, but the conversation quickly turned into questions about Islam. “Are all Muslims terrorists?” “So I heard something about 70 virgins, is that true?” “Do Muslims believe that you can have 100 wives?” “Is it true that you kill people that don’t believe the same thing as you?”
Black people in the U.S are all too familiar with the concept of stereotypes leading to oppression and sometimes violence. At an HBCU campus it is largely understood that black lives matter. But can we truly uphold that all black lives matter in our community without lifting up the voices of the black Muslims that learn alongside us as they face the rise of islamophobia in our nation?
On Jan. 27, President Donald Trump issued an executive order banning seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S, stopping all refugees from entering for the next three months and banning Syrian refugees indefinitely. None of the countries on the “ban” list has ever attacked the U.S and the majority of terrorist attacks since 9/11 were actually carried out by white men.
Two days after the Muslim ban was announced, the Muslim Student Association at FAMU hosted Islam Awareness Week as a way to reach out and form better relationships between Muslim and non-Muslim Rattlers. As protests take off around the nation and families have been broken up, MSA members Abdul Brimah, Qaddaffi Khalif Abdur-Rasheed, Furé Muhammad, and Faa’izah Jackson all realize the importance of combatting ignorance with education, fellowship and understanding.
Qadaffi Khalif Abdur-Rasheed
First year chemical engineering
Family from Somalia
Q: How did the news of Trumps executive order on immigration, that essentially banned Muslims from entering the U.S, make you feel?
QAR: One thing that really got me was that one of the countries listed was Somalia and my mom’s country is Somalia. That’s a lot of family members on my mom’s side that’s not going to be able to come here. Even if they can, they have to go through a lot of trials and tribulations before making it to the states. I have family members who have died and others who can possibly die due to the fact that it’s hard for them to get in the states. I have fear and worry that my mom goes to Somalia and won’t be able to come back to the U.S because there’s a possibility she may get killed. My mom is a refugee. In fact, she was buried alive twice. She travelled to Europe to get her money up and eventually made it to the states. That’s a story that every Somali does not get to tell. Many Somalis try to come to the states and they die. It just makes me feel sad, for not only Somalia, but the many other countries that are on the ban list. There are other families. We’re living in a first world country and we can’t even really see what’s going on in other countries.
Q: How would you describe the relationship between Muslims and the current White House administration?
QAR: They [WH administration] know what they’re doing. They may have ulterior motives that I may not know of, they may be trying to do something behind the scenes with these bans of Muslim nations. I think it all goes down to the subjugation of people. Whenever you’re subjugating people, you’re definitely doing bad things. In short, this president is doing bad things, and it hasn’t even been a month since he’s been in office. Who’s to say what he will do three years from now? It’s that uncertainty that builds fear amongst Muslims in America. Even if nothing gets done in these four years that truly harms Muslims other than this ban, he’s sowing seeds that will cause distraught later on. He’s slowly dividing the nation. It can end very bad, and I just hope and pray it doesn’t end like that.
Q: What do you love about being black and Muslim?
QAR: I love being black of course, even though there’s a certain stigma propagated by media and what not. I feel like me being black and Muslim, placing those stereotypes on me gives me more urge to strive and fight against those stereotypes. Knocking two birds with one stone.
All the Abrahamic faiths have many similarities, and one of the many similarities is to do good by others. They believe in one God, they believe you should pray, they believe you should be moral. Islam teaches that if you do all those things, you’re good in our book.
Second year Bio-engineering major
From Atlanta, Georgia
Q: Has anyone in your family or anyone you may know been affected by this new executive order?
FM: My cousin is traveling in the middle east right now as an English teacher and now she cannot come back. Even if I didn’t know people. It would still bother me because its prejudice toward something the U.S always claimed to respect. The original people that came to the U.S came seeking religious freedom so to be excluded from coming here based on something like religion is ridiculous and absurd. It definitely makes me uncomfortable
Q: In black families, many parents have to have tough conversations with their kids on how to act in order to survive. What are some of the conversations you’ve had with your family about survival that’s different?
FM: You don’t want to be outwardly opinionated about things. For example, 9/11- tragic event that occurred in the U.S and it was traumatizing because we rarely have these types of things happen in the U.S. As someone who’s socially aware, I know of many countries that have been attacked by the U.S, and massive amounts of people have been killed. The amount of casualties we had with 9/11 compared to the amount of casualties everywhere else from U.S hands-there’s no comparison. So a lot of times when things are brought up, as the only Muslim there, I can’t really go off that way because I don’t want to seem radical or as an extremist.
Personally, I am very opinionated so I do let those things be known but I don’t want to come off in an angered way, I don’t really want to show too much emotion because I don’t want people to equate that with me being volatile or violent.
What’s crazy is that feelings are who we are, feelings are what makes us human
Not being able to communicate those feelings or not being able to express them, that’s inhumane in and of itself. That’s the only way we could empathetic toward someone. To know how they’re feeling.
Q: Have you ever experienced islamophobia on campus?
FM: Yes. Well I wouldn’t necessarily say its islamophobia, but ignorance. There have been comments, there have been prejudice statements. Things like “Don’t be upset with me I don’t want you to bomb me.” So stupid stuff like that. I just use those opportunities to educate
Q: How would you like your non-Muslim classmates and associates to show solidarity?
FM: I’m disappointed in FAMU to be honest. I always wanted to go to an HBCU from the way that I was brought up, and I’m disappointed in the way that we’ve been handling all the social issues that we’re facing. There have been a lot of people that have support Muslims in these times on social media and I appreciate that. But the biggest thing is to be supportive of all that are going through these things. I’m not really impressed with what an HBCU is doing toward all the social issues we have going on. You have Palestinians, you have this situation, you have black people, you have Flint, you have so many types of issues I feel like we should try to do more.
Third year Criminal Justice and pre-law major
From Miami, Florida
Q: How would you describe the experience of being black and Muslim?
FJ: I only recently started wearing my scarf. I would never wear my scarf because I was always afraid of what someone would say to me, how would someone react towards me, because people will always stereotype you if you have on a scarf. “Oh it’s a bomb under your scarf.”
It’s always a stereotype. It’s never something uplifting because people really don’t understand and know the religion or what I practice. That’s why I’m really proud that we’re doing Islamic Awareness Week where we can really reach out around campus and community to let them know. People are always targeting Islam and Muslims like we’re doing something bad. I just want to get more people to understand so I can feel more comfortable wearing my scarf and just being around school.
I wear my scarf and hijab because it keeps me pure and together. I think about what I’m doing 24/7 because I know people are going to look at me. I feel like when I have on my scarf it’s a protection for me and I feel closer to God.
Q: Has anyone in your family or anyone you may know been affected by the executive order?
FJ: My best friend has family in Sudan. It restricts her from seeing her family and the people she loves just because of her religion or race. It’s really bothering. She usually travels back and forth; she was last there this past summer and spent a whole month over there. I feel like she’s going to go over there and not come back cause that’s her family, that’s her back bone. That’s the people she need around her. If my best friend leaves, that distancing us. He’s [Donald Trump] messing up a lot of relationships with people. He’s taking away from the things that matter to people most.
Q: Do you feel like you face different or more struggles as both a black and Muslim person in America?
FJ: My mom gets worried, she’ll ask “Are you sure you want to wear your scarf today?” because of all the stuff that’s going on. They’re blowing up masjids, the place where we worship, where we pray and give thanks to God. She always has conversations with me to make sure to pay attention to my surroundings, always pray, and think before I do stuff. Just to make sure I’m aware of what’s going on around me because it’s really scary. I wear a scarf, I’m black, so I’m a target.
My mom’s side of the family is Muslim but not my dad’s, my dad is Christian.
My parents never forced us to pick a side, they just made sure we were comfortable. Sometimes I went to church with my dad, and I always went to masjid with my mom because I’m closer to my mom. It was weird sometimes, but they would just tell us “do what you feel” and to learn both practices. No practice is right and no practice is wrong. They let us to choose the way we want to go. But none of us ever eat pork, my dad’s Christian and he doesn’t eat pork.
Q: Have you ever felt like you had to hide your faith to avoid being targeted?
FJ: Yes, a lot, mainly throughout highschool. I never thought people will accept me for who I am, So I never told anyone except my best friend. A lot of people would ask me “Why don’t you eat pork?” “Why don’t you go here?” “Why you don’t go to church with us?” So I was hiding it, but everyone knew it was something, they just didn’t know what.
Abdul Razak Brimah
Second year civil engineering major
Family is from Ghana, West Africa
Q:Have you ever felt like you had to hide your faith to avoid being targeted?
AB: I feel like there had been times where it would be wiser for me to not put faith on my sleeve. I’ve never been one to hide my faith, that’s a thing I’m pretty proud of. I’m proud to be Muslim. I feel like you should be, if you choose to believe in something, you should be proud to claim it, own it.
I remember the Koran burnings from a pastor in Florida, people were going crazy and saying a lot of stuff, and started this uproar of comments on Islam. My mom had advised me to not wear my kufi because she didn’t want me to go out there and have someone confront me or do something crazy. So for my mother’s peace of mind, yeah, but I’ve never gone into a situation like “let me not let people know that I’m Muslim.”
Q: How would you like your non-Muslim classmates and associates to show solidarity?
AB: I would want people to shed light where there’s darkness. Through enlightening others. I want people to understand the significance of what is being done, understand the reason behind it and understand the people that are being affected. These are real people with families who just want opportunities just like anyone else’s family. There’s no real basis, but as long as people view Islam as a threat, they’ll agree with it. We’re Muslim and we walk around campus every day and we have never crossed or harmed anybody.
Q:What would you like to see FAMU’s administration do to help make Muslim students feel more accepted on campus?
AB: A lot of major holidays are recognized by the university, none of those being Islamic holidays. The Christian faith’s religious holidays are all recognized by the university, and I understand that the foundation of the university was on that faith, but it’s still a state university, if they want be inclusive then be inclusive. Giving us the time to go off from school when we have things to do, because I had to fight for that. A lot of us got penalized for missing school when we fast for Ramadan. It took an email from Dr. Hudson, thankfully he helped us out with student affairs to get that situated, but it shouldn’t have to be that. I feel like the faculty and staff could also lessen the amount of emphasis they put on religious practices in classes, or if they do just be equal about it for everybody, make everybody feel welcomed.
Q: Is there anything else you that you think is important for people to know?
QAR: It may seem like an only Muslim problem, but it really isn’t. It’s a humanitarian problem that encompasses every cosmopolite on the planet. People have to see that there’s certain things that are unjust and immoral going on. Regardless of who the person is, who’s giving orders, regardless of how much a stoop they have or how much political clout they have they still are wrong. This is a democracy; people can see that this is wrong. These protests that are going on, that’s really awesome. Even if they’re not Muslim they see that its wrong and they’re protesting, that’s really great in my opinion.
AB: We are here, and believe it or not we’re a moving force. We are a force with progression on the mind, we are a force with inclusion on the mind. We also are a force with freedom on the mind. Freedom from oppression, freedom from sources of degradation and sources of pain and suffering.