For Amna Omar, who recently graduated from San Diego State University, the worst moment came in her freshman year, when a classroom discussion about religion turned to Islam. One student singled out Omar, telling her she was “oppressed” because of her jilbab, or full-body covering. Far from being concerned about her oppression, the student told Omar, she said, to “go back home” because her attire was not mainstream.
No one else objected to her treatment, she recalled. “The professor did not say anything. Nor did any students get involved. It was as if nothing happened,” Omar said. Omar chose not to tell administrators, saying the incident, which was hardly the only one she’d experienced or heard about, made her feel “defeated.”
Despite American academia’s reputation as strongholds of social justice consciousness, Muslim students on campus are frustrated by the acceptance of Islamophobia from school administrations and fellow students. Experiences like Omar’s are compounded by constant slights such as the lack of spaces to pray, a deficit of chaplains as well as meal and exam schedules that don’t accommodate Muslims’ religious needs.