In a heartwarming show of support and respect for their peers on Monday of this week, students and faculty at The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor formed a late night protective circle around Muslim students to ensure they could practice their faith and pray in peace, without fear of being harmed in the increasingly hostile, intolerant and dangerous environment created and encouraged by President-elect Donald Trump. Trump, who has made it clear he plans to implement a Muslim registry reminiscent of Hitler’s Nazi Germany, has continued to bring out the worst in his supporters throughout this election year. What he’s failed to do, however, is stop the unconditional love of the good, righteous and moral people of this nation. This act of solidarity is absolute proof there is still so much to be hopeful for.
The circle was partly in response to an incident that took place on campus just last week in which a Muslim student was approached by a rage-filled Trump supporter who threatened to set the young woman on fire if she didn’t remove her hijab. Shaken and scared, she left the scene, later reporting it to the police. An investigation into the crime remains ongoing.
Since then, countless Ann Arbor residents have begun tying scarves to their purses, bags, backpacks, etc., as a sign of support in the event they happen to witness similar hatred being thrust upon Muslim women; should they be forced to remove their hijab, those with scarves have pledged to step in and provide them with a replacement before ensuring they are escorted to a safe place. As beautiful as the gesture is, the sadness behind the cause cannot be denied. Particularly in a town like Ann Arbor, which has long held the reputation of being a laid-back, all-inclusive and socially-conscious conurbation.
The Muslim religion includes five prayers a day, with the public Ishaa prayer taking place at night. The University’s Muslim Student Association organized the gathering in an effort to show pride for their religion, with Farhan Ali, a sophomore who serves as the Club’s president, stating, “Some individuals were afraid that we might be vulnerable during our prayer, so we had the idea of calling allies to support us and create a circle around us while we prayed and they ensured our safety.” However, he did not expect the tremendously large turnout, for which he expressed his deep gratitude.
Speaking of the countless hundreds who showed up to offer their support and protection, Ali said, “The amount of support was overwhelming and absolutely wonderful, and it brought some ease to the Muslim students [and] showed that we have other individuals who are willing to stand with us.” The chilly temperatures did not keep supporters away, with members of both Christian and Jewish faiths standing together in solidarity, many of whom held signs in silence that read, “You belong here.”
Since Trump was elected President, the number of anti-Muslim (as well as anti-anything-other-than-straight-white-male) hate crimes have increased exponentially.
This has led many to fear for their safety, and rightfully so. Ali said many Muslim students have experienced feelings of unease and trepidation in exercising their right to practice their Constitutionally protected religious freedom. However, he is not letting that stop him. Instead, he said, “We must roll up our sleeves and get to work because the fight does not end with the election results. We have allies who are with us and we have a community that is resilient and will not succumb to fear in light of these attacks.”
University of Michigan’s Muslim chaplain Mohammed Ishtiaq also expressed his appreciation for the protective circle, stating in an email, “Events of solidarity like this give us hope.”
As us Ann Arborites like to say, especially in times like these, when people unite in the face of hate and division by sending a message of love in order to protect the common good of this great nation: it’s great to be…a Michigan Wolverine.