Being a non-hijab wearing Muslim in Trinity has made me blend in with other students more than I expected. During Freshers’ Week this year, I wasn’t sure whether a classmate of mine was more shocked that he was only discovering my religion after three years, or that I didn’t fit the stereotype of a typical Muslim, having blue eyes and blonde hair. But as Sinéad O’Connor proved on The Late Late Show, I am not the only one dismantling such common misconceptions people have about Muslims.
“The diverse nature of Muslims around the world is encapsulated by those who happen to be on Trinity’s campus.”
The diverse nature of Muslims around the world is encapsulated by those who happen to be on Trinity’s campus. In this university, there is a rich mixture of people from Northern Africa, Palestine, the U.A.E., Nigeria, Indonesia and various other countries. Some of us were born here, others have immigrated, and we study many different courses. But regardless of our differences, we are bound by Islam before anything else, pray side by side, and say “Salam Alaikum” (peace be with you) upon seeing each other.
Even if all the members of the Muslim community on campus do not know each other personally, we can be sure that we all partake in similar activities on a day to day basis, due to the requirements that are placed upon us as followers of Islam. One of these requirements is prayer and, thankfully, we have a room allocated for that in Goldsmith Hall. But those of us who are arts students, including myself, don’t always have the time in between classes to trek to the prayer room on the other side of campus. So, we find hidden places in the corridors, or as my friend used to do, pray between shelves in the library. Sometimes, this means that we have to perform Wudu (our cleansing ritual) in the toilets, which can be a little scary at first, especially when contemplating how other students may judge us when we randomly take off our socks to wash our feet in front of the sink. But I have gradually overcome these thoughts.
Some of the best experiences I have had as a Trinity student have been in the prayer room during the Jummah prayer, a prayer that all Muslims partake in after noon on Fridays. It is where I have met some of my dearest friends, engaged in deep conversations, and felt totally understood without having to say a word. It is a type of bonding that surpasses all other activities that I could take part in, purely through the manifestation of our love for God, and connecting with others on a soulful basis because of it.
“At times there is a lack of representation in lectures when Western dominated thought starts to clash with Muslim religious values.”
In my experience, the overall attitude towards Muslims from other students in Trinity has been positive. However, at times there is a lack of representation in lectures when Western dominated thought starts to clash with Muslim religious values. It was reported that in a biology class, while explaining the origin of life, the lecturer wrote the word God on the board only to cross it out after a few seconds. For anyone who believes in a God, not just Muslims, this can be hurtful and discouraging, because it means having to contest with course content that completely defies your morals.
During my Senior Freshman year, I experienced a similar encounter in a class where a lecturer made fun of a story from the Bible. Since many of my classmates laughed, I was left feeling isolated and frustrated. Even though the holy text for Muslims is the Qur’an, our book also accepts the Bible and the Torah, but serves to explain the discrepancies associated with them. So, as a Muslim, if a Christian is mocked I relate to them, because our beliefs are derived from the same root and the books we study are so interconnected. Islam would simply not be the religion that it is without the likes of Judaism or Christianity because it encompasses prophets and stories from both.
Unfortunately, not everyone can recognise the unity of Islam. Upon writing this article, a girl shared with me that she was previously harassed in front of the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute (TBSI) by a passerby. This shows that even if classmates are generally accepting, Trinity buildings outside of the main campus can provide little safety for our students from strangers who shout, “you Muslim terrorist, go back to your own country”.
Sometimes, unknowingly, the classes we take don’t help to broaden our minds as we would like. In pursuit of my degree, I have seen priority being given to Western intellectuals even though there is potentially more to learn from Eastern ones in the same subjects. I have grown up in the West but living in this part of the world should not deter me from getting a more accurate portrayal of the truth. For example, as an Economics student, I have been taught that Adam Smith is the “father of Economics”, even though unfamiliar to many is a scholar called Ibn Khaldun who lived 400 years before Smith. Their theories are strikingly similar and yet lecturers promote Smith over Khaldun.
“We believe, in Islam, that no one is ever burdened more than they can handle and that everything has its purpose.”
Despite all that we are faced with, we believe, in Islam, that no one is ever burdened more than they can handle and that everything has its purpose. In every hardship there is a lesson to take away about others and, most importantly, about ourselves and how we act in these situations. Even though I have blended in with regular students in Trinity over the past few years, I admire and look up to those Muslim students who haven’t, and who have made their mark by wearing the hijab. This is due to their constant courage and strength to preserve the beliefs that others find great distaste in, and doing so in such a subtle fashion. They do not make a scene or shout out, but wear a simple scarf. From these Muslim women I have learned to never fear my identity.