After hearing the news that a young Muslim student at the University of Michigan had been threatened for her faith earlier this month, students and faculty turned out this week for an inspiring show of support for the campus’ Islam student population. The incident that sparked the show of defiance to anti-Muslim hate in America took place earlier this month, when an unknown suspect approached a female student near the campus and threatened to set her on fire if she didn’t remove her hijab, a traditional head covering worn by Muslim women.
Though the Ann Arbor Police are still investigating the threat, the university’s Muslim Student Association decided to make a statement of their own by organizing a peaceful public prayer. Farhan Ali, the group’s President, told the Huffington Post that the public Ishaa prayer, or nighttime prayer, was organized in an attempt to show the campus that it’s participants were proud to be Muslim.
Some among the participants however, expressed concern that the prayer might leave the group vulnerable, in light of rising anti-Muslim hate crimes around the country. That’s when the group had the idea to reach out to their non-Muslim friends.
“We had the idea of calling allies to support us and create a circle around us while we prayed and they ensured our safety,” Ali told The Huffington Post. Though hopeful that some of their friends would show up to offer support, the group never expected the overwhelming show of solidarity they would receive by faculty and staff.
“Hundreds and hundreds of people came out for both prayer and showing their support,” Ali says, “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.”
Not only was the praying group surrounded and protected by hundreds of allies, including members of both Jewish and Christian communities on the campus, some of the group members even brought signs of encouragement which read, “You Belong Here.”
Mohammed Ishtiaq, the university’s Muslim chaplain says that although the night on which the prayer took place may have been a cold one, the show of peace, love, and religious tolerance was “really heartwarming” and that “events of solidarity like this give us hope.”