Students hold vigil, start dialogue in wake of terror attacks

Students and faculty came together on Nov. 20 to reflect upon the recent terror attacks perpetrated by the Islamic State in Paris, Beirut and Baghdad. A number of events were held, including a “Peace Panel” discussion featuring students and teachers, a vigil in solidarity with the victims of recent attacks and a discussion of Islamophobia organized by the Muslim Student Association.

The first of these events was the Peace Panel, held in Newton from 2:30-3:30 p.m. On the panel were Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Carol Long, Dean of Residential Living and professor of English Celia Easton, associate professor of psychology Jim Allen, assistant professor of history Megan Abbas, junior Amal Thabateh, senior Sarah Buckowski and senior Djoni Elkady. The stated mission of the panel was to discuss the impact and possible responses to recent acts of terror.

Citing the response to the Sept. 11 attacks, Allen said, “I heard words like ‘evil’ and ‘terrorism’ and that was the end of the story … there didn’t seem to be any effort to get under the surface, to figure out why they wanted to do these things.”

Multiple panelists similarly called for a reflection on how Western culture perceives these events. “A lot of our kneejerk response is that these people should be forced into our Western system, but that’s not necessarily the case,” Abbas said.

Thabateh also voiced support for a change in how the perception is created. “It’s so important that everyone participates in this kind of thing,” she said. “Every race, every culture, every background should be heard.”

Freshman Luke Gorka explained that he saw the panel as a valuable learning experience. “I never expected to really come out with so much learning from this,” he said. “This is what, I guess, college should really be about: expanding a world view and deepening an understanding of what really matters in this world and getting out of the bubble.”

An hour after the panel, a brief vigil was held in front of the Integrated Science Center to show solidarity with the victims of terrorism. In addition to Thabateh and Buckowski, freshman Sam Rubacka helped lead the event which began with a moment of silence.

A student in the crowd asked that victims of transphobia also be recognized in accordance with Transgender Awareness Week and the organizers consented.

After the moment of silence, a poem was read in French and a translated Arabic poem was read in English. The event lasted about 15 minutes with approximately 60-70 participants.

“It’s important to take a moment for everybody not just from Paris, but Lebanon and even people who aren’t dying, but people at Mizzou or Ithaca that are being discriminated against,” sophomore Emma Pure said. “I think it’s important for everyone to stand together like this in solidarity.”

“I just thought it was very beautiful that everyone came together,” sophomore Julian Faccibene added.

Immediately after the vigil, approximately 40 of the students returned to Newton for another discussion led by MSA. This panel focused primarily on Islamophobia, especially as it relates to the recent terror attacks. It was also intended to take a more relaxed format than the earlier panel and meant to serve more as a back-and-forth discussion.

Members of MSA primarily moderated this discussion, which involved topics such as political backlash for Muslims, public perceptions of Islam and personal experiences of Islamophobia.

“There are mosques in Texas, North Carolina and Florida that have been vandalized or shot at in the past week,” Thabateh said. “There have been life-threatening voicemails that have been left at mosques.”

“I think we ask ourselves, ‘How do we get terrorists?’ And the answer to that is that you take a child and you show them anger and you show them fear,” freshman Remington Spoor said. “That’s how you get terrorism.”

The process of becoming an ally was also a main subject of the panel.

“It doesn’t matter what community you’re from,” sophomore Michael Carlin said. “You can always be an ally and you can always show your support to any group.”