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Bowdoin, treat your Muslim students better

May 12, 2022

This piece represents the opinion of the author.

To the Editor:

Just this past Sunday, I woke up to the chapel bells. The church bells wake me up every Sunday, serving as a reminder that I’m a foreigner in this land. No matter how many years I’ve been living here, no matter how many friendships I’ve made, no matter that I speak a colonizers’ language better than my mother tongue, the bells tell me that I do not belong. When I came to Bowdoin, I was hoping that I could let go of this feeling and, for at least a chunk of my life, feel at “home.” You see, Bowdoin has promised me, and many others like me, inclusivity. When you go on the College’s website, the first thing you see is a question: “What does it mean for a college to do the right thing?” Our school answers: “For us, it means working for equality, diversity and inclusion.” Now, I can go on a rant on why I was disappointed not even a month into my first year here, but I want to talk about something that hurt many Muslim students on this campus deeply.

For those of you who don’t know, many Muslims were observing the month of Ramadan from April 1 to May 1. That means that we fasted from sunrise to sunset, not consuming any food or beverages. This is my first Ramadan away from my family, so I knew it was not going to be easy, but I wasn’t expecting Bowdoin to make it harder for me.

When I went to the dining hall on Easter Sunday, I saw cantaloupes carved to be rabbits, bowls of colored eggs and many other festive foods celebrating Easter. This wasn’t the first time dining halls reflected the holidays; there was festivity around Christmas, Halloween and even Presidents’ Day. Menus were changed to accommodate each holiday’s tradition. Don’t get me wrong, the last thing I want to do is throw other cultures and traditions under the bus. However, during Ramadan, all we got was an email from the Center for Multicultural life telling us to ask for to-go containers in the dining halls because many of us had night classes and couldn’t break our fast during the hours that the dining halls were operated. Although we would have loved to see some sort of celebration or simply a plate of dates in the dining halls, we didn’t say anything. The Muslim Student Alliance did not ask for anything more or special from the administration, we just wanted to be able to actually eat the meals that we were paying for without a hassle.

This request was denied. We were informed that we could not get to-go boxes during Ramadan, because other “accommodations” were provided. These accommodations were no more than a couple of boxes of granola bars and clementine bags. We were not given an answer on why to-go boxes “violated a policy.” I heard some people saying that it is because it might be costly. We are already missing two meals a day for a whole month, that is 60 meals that we are missing and still having to pay for. Couldn’t the to-go boxes be a compensation for that? And if the College is able to provide the to-go boxes for students who have Covid, why couldn’t they change the policy for a month so fasting students can take their meals out easily?
My whole life, I’ve been taught to assume the best intentions. Every day, I try to believe that Bowdoin College is really trying its best to ensure equality for all of us. However, when I put the pieces of this puzzle together, I see nothing but blatant Islamophobia. If anything, I am a student here at Bowdoin today because I was taught to speak my truth against injustice, so I am doing that now. Please hear us, and make changes.

Sincerely,
Yusur Jasim,
Class of 2025
On Behalf of MSA

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