Muslim students at OCCC say they are outraged and frightened for their safety after a nightclub shooting shortly after 2 a.m in Orlando, Fla., recently.
The shooter, Omar Mateen, 29, claimed the lives of 49 people and injured over 50 at Pulse, a gay dance club. No current OCCC students were harmed in the attack.
During the attack, Mateen reportedly placed a call to 911 in which he pledged his allegiance to ISIS.
The shooting came shortly after the start of the Ramadan holy month, a time where Muslims strictly devout themselves to their faith. Diverting their focus from worship and fasting, Muslim students on campus now say they fear the shooter’s actions may incite hate crimes against them.
Arta Shajiee said she was verbally attacked while on the road recently.
She said she saw a man in a car, whom she thought might have been gay, looked angry as he shouted something inaudible at her while she was driving home.
In spite of her concerns for her safety, Shajiee is focused more on the emotional challenges the LGBTQ community is facing.
“The gay community is very hurt right now. My deep sorrow is with those victims and their families,” she said.
Samara Altaie, a nursing major, said there are many who already have a negative impression of those who practice Islam, and Mateen’s actions only make matters worse.
“Muslims will have to endure a negative image from the media while the shooter is long gone,” Altaie said.
She said she fears she will be singled out by others for her religious beliefs and that her head covering might attract hateful comments and dirty looks from people.
“I wear a Hijab so you can tell what my religion is immediately. I have a physical and obvious way to tell that I am a Muslim,” Altaie said. “I get targeted easier than someone who doesn’t wear a Hijab”.
Altaie urges non-Muslim students to educate themselves about Islam and not to believe everything the media is telling them.
She said she encourages others to ask her questions about Islam and to “ask and not assume.” She also encourages Muslim students to try and be understanding during tense times.
“I advise everyone not to take dirty looks personally … Just be patient and be good Muslims by loving each other and educate each other,” Altaie said.
Hasna Armihy, a nursing major, voiced her outrage at Mateen, ISIS and the shooting.
“Muslims during this month are close to God. We clean up our souls,” Armihy said.
She said while Mateen might have been known to be of Muslim faith, his actions do not represent Islam. “Nowhere in our holy book does it say we have to kill people, even if they are homosexuals. He is just using Islam to cover for what he did,” Armihy said.
“We just need to stick together and keep praying for the people we lost. Keep doing what we are doing and keep defending our religion. Our religion is not what people think,” she said.
Altaie agreed that the pain inflicted by ISIS and Mateen is not representative of Islam. She said associating acts of violence with Islam hurts all Muslims.
“I hate that (ISIS) call themselves Muslims because we all become categorized with them. I’m disgusted by it,” she said. “I live here in America and I don’t even know who they are, but they still affect me in a very negative way. Our lives are miserable because of them,” Altaie said.