‘Being Muslim gives me hope’

Muslim students on campus help give voice to underrepresented community

By Krissia Nunez/reporter

NE student Rana Huwaidi hasn’t always worn a hijab, but when she first started wearing one, she says it’s changed her life forever.

Although she was born in Texas, her parents immigrated to the U.S. before she was born in order to give her and her siblings a better life. Huwaidi says that she regularly visits her home country, Jordan. She was raised as a Muslim, but her religion strengthened as she got older.

“Being Muslim gives me hope,” Huwaidi said. “It shows me that it’s okay to feel like nothing is going right, but that there is always relief at the end of a situation.”

Huwaidi remembers the journey she went through when deciding she wanted to wear the hijab. She was 16.

“I chose to wear the hijab because I wanted to show people I was proud of being Muslim,” she said. “I found the beauty behind it.”

Though she recalls some instances of being stared at for wearing her hijab, Huwaidi only distinctly recalls one occasion where she’s been harassed.

“I was in the checkout line at Walmart, and I didn’t know where the line ended, so I just stepped in behind someone,” she said.  “I then heard someone say, ‘You can’t cut in line, terrorist’, and it scared me. I didn’t know if he would get aggressive or not.”

Recently, a hate crime against Muslims took place in New Zealand. Huwaidi was in her bedroom when she heard the news.

“I felt like the entire world was against my religion,” she said. “I felt scared. I didn’t want to leave my house for days after it. I was scared that if people saw me wearing a hijab, they’d discriminate against me.”

Huwaidi is currently attending TCC to pursue a degree in speech therapy. She said that she’s always loved inspiring change.

“I’ve always wanted to help change someone’s life,” she said. I love seeing people improve and better themselves.”

“TCC is very accepting,” she said. “The student body and staff are welcoming towards different cultures, a feeling I never got while I was in high school.”

While Huwaidi believes that NE Campus is diverse, she said she hasn’t befriended girls who wear the hijab.

“I don’t really know that many other hijabis that attend this campus, but when I see a girl wearing it, we give each other a nod-like gesture, suggesting that we have each other’s backs,” she said.

Huwaidi has spent a big part of her life trying to spread a positive message about Islam. She believes that people have a preconceived notion of the religion that is probably not correct.

“I see things all the time on social media calling Muslims dangerous, ignorant, aggressive, unfriendly,” she said. “When in reality, we’re a really accepting religion. We all just really want a peaceful world.”

Huwaidi plans to transfer to a four-year university after obtaining her associate degree at TCC.

Lana Yassin is also a Muslim student at TCC. She is currently enrolled in her second semester and is pursuing a degree in journalism.

“Thankfully, I believe that TCC is a safe space for Muslims,” Yassin said.

However, she pointed out that not all campuses have Muslim student clubs. Only SE and TR Campus have a Muslim Student Association, or MSA.

NE student Rameesha Khan believes her religion is at the root of her persona. Islam strengthens her beliefs to bring her guidance. Photo courtesy Sadia Saleem

“I believe we should have more Islam-based clubs, at least an MSA,” she said.

Yassin has always been an advocate for equality, and even attended a lobby weekend in Washington in regards to the DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an administrative program created under the Obama administration that protected immigrants who were brought to the country illegally.

Yassin believes that helping others is something she learned from being Muslim.

“I want to use my voice for those who can’t,” she said. “It’s my job as a human being to help those in need, no matter who they are or where they come from.”

Rameesha Khan is also a part of the Muslim community at TCC. Although Khan chooses not to wear the hijab, she takes pride in her religion.

“I am proud of being Muslim because it makes me who I am,” she said. “Islam teaches me so much about life, morals and values. It gave me a purpose in life. There are thousands of people who hate us, or try to diminish us, but we still manage to stand up and spread love and positivity.”

Khan believes that it is important for Muslims to come together and support each other if they ever start to feel ashamed about their religion.

“Sometimes a person just needs to be heard and get some guidance,” she said. “Regardless of religion, we as humans are always here for each other because all religions teach humanity and peace, and I respect that.”