A warm crowd of students and faculty took to Atwood Memorial Center in a stand against Islamophobia. “This day, April 3rd am I going to cancel my classes because I’m afraid?” said Nasra Farah from the Social Work Association.
Last month a flyer went viral in the United Kingdom promoting “Punish a Muslim Day.” The “game” includes a point system for assaulting Muslims, and for it to take place on April 3.
The wide-spread images motivated students and faculty in the Social Work department at SCSU to create the event. They declared it “Respect the Saint Cloud Muslim Community Day”.
Farah had a friend that was planning on not coming to school. It wasn’t until pictures were sent showing the event the students created they felt compelled to come to campus. “He came and showed up, and he posted something over,” said Farah.
The group set up an area by the lounge in Atwood, allowing anyone to express themselves with art and words. One side of the area expressed solidarity by hand-drawing messages on a cork board. On the other side, it allowed people to speak out against the “Punish a Muslim Day” flyers with reactions on a whiteboard.
“We use our core values to really, you know do a counter-protest,” said Dr. Patience Togo Malm, Chairperson of the Social Work Department.
The differences in the messages from one board to the next mirrored the differences between the event the students created compared to the what was spread online. Messages of love and respect compared to writing words like disgust and embarrassment.
The event wished to educate and overshadow the violent messages spread online. Although, it became a gathering spot for those who felt the warmth of the event.
“We want to let them know they are not alone [Islamic Community]” said Katelyn Dykhuizen, Vice President of the Social Work Association. “And that they have allies and we’re here for them. If they don’t feel safe they can come to any one of us.”
News of the event reached a member of the Teamsters group based in Minneapolis. Deciding to make the trek through the winter storm to share words of admiration for the students.
“We really appreciate all you guys, what you’re doing here, standing next to Muslim community,” said Nasser Mur, Minneapolis resident.
He’d never been to St. Cloud before the gathering, but afterward, he couldn’t stay away. was accompanied by his friend and colleague at the Teamsters, Brett Ohstad.
“I can see on his face today he really is moved by this,” said Ohstad.
The outreach and amount of attention the posters garnered wasn’t unnoticed by advisors in the social work department.
“I’m very proud of my students, I’m very proud of the department, I’m very proud of all the people that came to participate,” said Malm. “It’s not a pleasant conversation”.