While Muslims at TCU and across the nation consist of a small percentage of the population, assumptions are made about their lives due to the debate about terrorism and Islam.
However, TCU students said they have not felt a lot of scrutiny on campus for being a Muslim.
Amal Khan, a junior biology major and co-president of TCU’s Muslim Student Association, said she is aware it exists, but she has not been a victim to any verbal or physical attacks on campus for identifying as a Muslim student.
While she has not been singled out on campus, Khan said she would feel more comfortable if there were more minorities and Muslims on campus.
Last year, TCU was 72 percent Caucasian, with Hispanics making up the largest minority group at 11 percent, according to the Fact Book.
“I think when there’s not a lot of diversity, even on campus, it’s hard for other people to get used to different religious groups and minorities in what they believe in,” Khan said.
In recent months, the national conversation about Islam has centered around the jihadi group, ISIS. It also has concentrated on mass shootings in the U.S., such as the Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting and the San Bernardino shooting, linked to terrorists who claimed Muslim ties.
Hira Chaudhary, a senior political science major and co-president for the Muslim Student Association, said she was uncomfortable last spring when she attended a speech by former Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West that was sponsored by Young Americans for Freedom.
West, a retired Army Lt. Col., called for an increase in military ranks to combat terrorism. During the student comment period West had heated exchanges with some in the audience.
Chaudhary said this event showed that people who share the same views as Allen West do exist on campus.
Gregory Carr, a junior nutrition sciences major and member of the Islamic Association of Tarrant County, said he does not usually tell people he is Muslim unless they ask.
“When someone finds out I’m Muslim, they become suspicious,” Carr said. “As soon as they find out I’m Muslim, they treat me differently.”
Back when the West event happened, some TCU Muslim students who attended the event said West portrayed Islam in relation to promoting terrorism.
Some TCU Muslim students said Muslims in the media are often portrayed in a negative way as terrorists.
“The media takes a small portion of Muslims in what they do and they paint a broad picture of it to all Muslims,” Khan said.
Chaudhary said terrorists consist of a small percentage and most Muslims do not fit into that percentage.
Khan and Chaudhary both agreed that TCU can create a better understanding of Islam on campus through awareness and open dialogue.
“When you have more diversity on campus, it’s easier to talk about it,” Khan said. “MSA is part of Inclusiveness and Intercultural Services, so if people are more aware of that and go to the events, they’d be more interested in it probably.”
Carr said it is important that people are educated about Islam in order to encourage an effective open dialogue.
“When the Allen West thing happened, [MSA and Better Together] actually had a response speaker, Omar Suleiman, come, and I feel like what he talked about – that kind of discussion is what we need to be having,” Chaudhary said.
The event, Controversial Issues in Modern Islam, allowed for Suleiman and attendees to have a discussion about issues relating to “radicalism, women’s rights, the Qur’an, Sharia Law and coexistence,” which was posted on the TCU MSA Facebook page.
Chaudhary said that despite its often negative portrayal in the media, Islam is not a violent religion.
“Our religion teaches peace and harmony. If that were more known and if we could exemplify that a little better, then that would be good,” she said.
Khan and Chaudhary both said they are comfortable being open about their faith on campus.
“I don’t really try to think about what other people think about me, just because I want to be true to myself,” Khan said.
Chaudhary said she does not try to hide her religion.
“If anybody has questions, I am open and free to answer any questions they have,” she said.