As Islamophobia continues to run rampant in the United States and abroad, a group of Muslim college students have developed a way to keep track of the hate plaguing their communities.
Hamza Butler — former vice president of University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s Muslim Student Association — created Project Mawla, an open-source web application that allows students and residents to document Islamophobic incidents, The Nation reports.
In addition to building a network of support and safety among local Muslims, Project Mawla was created as a “counterpoint to the systemically supported notion that Islamophobia neither exists nor affects the livelihood of American Muslims.”
A major driving force behind developing this resource is the Chapel Hill shooting that took place back in February 2015 when a Muslim family was gunned down by their 44-year-old neighbor, Craig Hicks.
“After the shooting, I remember going on YikYak, and the hate speech was just blowing my mind,” said Ayesha Faisal, current president of the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill’s Muslim Student Association. “It was hours after the shooting. Out of nowhere there were people saying…‘It was justified because Muslims are terrorists.’”
According to The Express Tribune, the app is run by UNC Chapel Hill’s Muslim Student Association, which has more than 300 members, making it one of the largest student groups on the campus.
The Chapel Hill shooting touched Butler personally as he knew one of the victims, Deah Barakat, and had visited his apartment and had heard of the feud with the neighbor.
“It’s very troubling that it’s the first place my mind went, when usually things like that should be shocking and so sudden you can’t even assume an explanation,” he said. “But looking within the context of racism and Islamophobia, it was like seeing a tape recorder play again and knowing that these were the usual factors involved.”
Project Mawla also serves as an educational tool, raising awareness about the prevalence of Islamophobia throughout Chapel Hill.
And it gives users a place to document troubling and frightening incidents that aren’t considered crimes and would likely be ignored or swept under the rug by authorities.
“No experience of mistreatment is ‘too small.’ No narrative of suffering, unweighted,” reads the website’s homepage.
The fact that a tool like this is even necessary points to a very serious problem in our society that needs to be addressed at the legislative level. Nevertheless, the initiative that these students have taken to improve the quality of life for members of their community shows unity and support for one another, which exemplifies the expression, "there is strength in numbers."
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