To the Editor:

As we continue to witness negative depictions of Muslims, it has become common for the media to misrepresent Islam and distort the Muslim image, often homogenizing a very diverse population of individuals. The human component that should attempt to highlight and empathize with a person’s individual struggle is rarely considered.

This was the case in a recent Mirror article entitled “Ignorance that Admissions Accepts: Part 2,” which intended to address the issue of stereotypes and discrimination on campus. Instead, it became an attack on the Administration, a fictitious portrayal of Islam, and a partial reflection of my experience as a student.

The image of the hijab or Muslim headscarf, and the term abaya, a long cultural dress worn by some Muslim women (myself not being one of them), in my opinion were icons used to skew the story and create unnecessary controversy.

As the subject of the article, I was disheartened by these twists which misdirected the reader’s attention.

The actions of that one professor are not representative of the entire University. Of the 36 professors I have had, he was the only one I ever felt who discriminated against me. His behavior however, was not solely based on my religion. He harbored a personal dislike for me that was difficult to understand. I often thought it resulted from my shyness and lack of participation in class—though considering the discrimination many Muslims face today—it perhaps could have been more complex than that.

I have had many professors accommodate me as a Muslim student, which shows their sensitivity to the religious and cultural needs of individual students.

More than before, the topic of Islam and Muslims is discussed in courses dedicated to the study of Islam in the context of Religious Studies, History, Politics and Modern Languages. Also, the presence of a Muslim Chaplain on campus shows the Administration’s desire to meet the diverse needs of Muslim students.

I hope by publishing my response it will continue to stimulate the conversations and dialogue which began in relation to that original article. Although minorities still face challenges, we must also see the efforts of those enforcing change. Ethical journalism is based on unbiased reporting and the fair representation of all sides of a story. Though I did not reveal the name of the professor, making it difficult for the presence of another perspective, I would have appreciated the inclusion of comments I made about the changes on campus.

I have learned from my experience, and especially since the publication of the article, that despite any negative consequences, there is always good to be found. In the last few weeks, I received numerous emails from professors and students expressing words of support and solidarity. This shows the willingness of many at Fairfield to embrace diversity and make the University a more comfortable place for all students.


Sarah Hassan ‘11

This article was written in consultation with Heba Youssef, the Muslim Chaplain.

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