Students come together to condemn ISIS and Islamophobia

Students hold candles as part of a vigil on Fairfield Way Wed., Nov. 18 to honor victims of Islamophobia. The vigil was held by Asian American Cultural Center (AsAAC) as part of a series named “Salaam.” (Jason Jiang/Daily Campus)

Over 80 people gathered around the seal on Fairfield Way Wednesday night to discuss Islamopobia on college campuses. The event was part of an Asian American Cultural Center (AsAAC) series named “Salaam.”

This event was the second of three events in the Salaam series and Roberto Valentine, the event organizer, said he believes Wednesday night was a “great success.”

“We needed to come together to educate and have a voice that is not usually heard be heard,” Valentine said. “A lot of people had a great connection tonight.”

Students embrace at a vigil held by Asian American Cultural Center (AsAAC) as part of a series named “Salaam," which means “peace” in Arabic. Angela Rola, Director of AsACC, said Salaam got its name for that reason. (Jason Jiang/Daily Campus)

Students and faculty shared personal anecdotes. Others spoke out to condemn ISIS and terrorism in general. Several people were moved to tears.

The fact that I cried tonight – I do not cry – that showed me that this event was truly touching.
— Syed Saud, Salaam student leader

“The fact that I cried tonight – I do not cry – that showed me that this event was truly touching,” said Salaam student leader and third semester molecular cell biology major Syed Saud.

Speakers urged those around them to do more than post on social media. Zoya Dhakam, a Salaam student leader and fifth semester economics and political science major, said this event “motivated” her.

Students hold candles at the vigil on Fairfield Way. (Jason Jiang/Daily Campus)

“I know my country (Pakistan) has fallen victim to terrorism and I see my people fall victim to xenophobia and Islamophobia,” Dhakam said. “AsACC and Salaam provide a platform for Muslims of all backgrounds to come together and discuss political issues, racial issues and any concerns that we want to counter in our society.”

“Always speak up and voice your concerns. Do not sit back and watch. We can make mistakes and learn from them,” Dhakam added.

The name “Salaam” comes from an Arabic greeting and translates into “peace” in English. Angela Rola, Director of AsACC, said Salaam got its name for that reason.

“We did not want to call the series itself ‘Islamophobia’ because that word is rooted in negativity,” Rola said. “We elected to call it ‘Salaam’ because salaam stands for peace.”

Rola said she believes this event was especially necessary following the “horrific” defilation of a Muslim student’s door in the Nathan Hale Inn.

“We are better than that – we have to be better than that on this campus,” Rola said. “[This event] brings hope to what we are talking about.”

Saud said he believes that college campuses and Americans in general pay selective attention to world issues.

A speaker addresses the crowd at the vigil, organized by AsACC. (Jason Jiang/Daily Campus)

“There was a mosque shot in Meriden, Connecticut this week. Where was the unrest? Had it not been a mosque the reaction would have been different.”

Rola said this event was a step in the right direction. 

“This event was necessary… Healing is always necessary. It was a great opportunity for people who don’t know each other to come together and feel safe.”

Salaam will host screening of the movie Mooz-lum on Nov. 30 in the Student Union Theater. The movie depicts life on college campuses for Muslim students before and after 9/11. Saud said he hopes to see people of all cultures in attendance.

“This movie shows life from a Muslim students’ perspective. We want as many people to join with as many different ethnicities and perspectives as possible,” Saud said.


Jon Hull is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at jonathan.hull@uconn.edu.