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Town hall gathering addresses Muslim student inclusion at UWO

Collin Goeman

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LGBTQ Resource Center Director Liz Cannon leads a round-table discussion regarding current issues facing Muslim members of the UWO campus community. The discussions were a part of Monday night’s Town Hall Meeting. Elizabeth Pletzer | The Advance-Titan

LGBTQ Resource Center Director Liz Cannon leads a round-table discussion regarding current issues facing Muslim members of the UWO campus community. The discussions were a part of Monday night’s Town Hall Meeting.

Students, faculty and community members came together in the Reeve Union Ballroom to discuss ways to make UW Oshkosh more inclusive of its Muslim students and to better understand their culture, on Monday.

Geography professor Mamadou Coulibaly began the discussion by explaining common misconceptions of Islam and what it is like being a Muslim in today’s society.

“Many people think of things like Jihad as negative,” Coulibaly said. “The most important part, the true meaning of Jihad, is the struggle for self improvement.”
Coulibaly said everyone can relate to the message of true Islam; they just have to know the truth about Islam.

Coulibaly shared his own experiences relating to his faith and his wish for UWO Muslim students to feel welcome on campus and in the community.

“We are here for the Muslim Titans, and to promote diversity on our campus,” Coulibaly said. “We not only need support from the University but more importantly, support from the students on campus.”

Student Tariq Anjum said he was very excited to see his fellow students come and ask about his faith.

“I appreciate how tolerant our University is of my culture,” Anjum said. “This is what we need, discussion about who we are. This way we can understand each other.”

Anjum said he wants people to learn about Islam through discussion with actual Muslims instead of through secondary sources.

“It seems that the media only reports bad things about Muslims, and there’s no secondary form of media to learn the truth about the culture,” Anjum said. “That’s why talks like this are important.”

Vice President of Oshkosh Student Association Maria Berge said religion is a tough subject to tackle, but discussion is key to understanding.
“You don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but it’s important to talk about,” Berge said.

Coming from a small town, Berge said she never experienced diverse culture growing up, but now tries to educate herself and others.
“When you remove ignorance, fear usually goes with it,” Berge said.

Student Zijo Zulic said he thinks it’s important that people are getting together to discuss these issues.

“Events like this need to happen more often; discussing this brings us together and helps us advance as a university,” Zulic said.

Coulibaly and other staff said there are many ways students and community members can further their knowledge of Islam.

“We can have understanding right here on campus. We have the resources,” Coulibaly said. “The library, mosques but most importantly, people. Talk to your fellow students to better understand their culture.”

Anjum said he hopes students will continue learning about Islam and tell what they have learned to others, so they can further change misconceptions.
“We need to be more accepting of each other despite race, religion or ethnicity,” Anjum said. “Diversity is the strength of this world.”

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Town hall gathering addresses Muslim student inclusion at UWO