Muslim students battle prejudice

'I've never done anything to anybody'

It was just two days ago that Kansas University student Bazigha Tufail was taunted for being Muslim.

Tufail, 20, stopped at a food court on campus for a bite when she casually made eye contact with a young man. Tufail wore a headscarf as she does wherever she goes.

As the man walked by, he muttered in her direction, “Bombs away.”

The words stung. They gave her pause and left a lingering sadness.

“I’ve never done anything to anybody,” she said. “I’m like, ‘why?’ … There’s no way to counter that ignorance.”

KU’s Muslim Student Assn. is hosting Islam Awareness Week through Friday to better students’ understanding of Muslims and Islam. The aim is to correct stereotypes and encourage tolerance.

“We want to present ourselves as who we are, to educate people,” said Fadlullah Firman, a KU student who helped organize the events.

A lecture on women in Islam is planned for tonight. On Friday, students can participate in “A Day in the Life of a Muslim,” spending a day with a Muslim student and observing the religion firsthand.

Those who spend the day with a Muslim student may not see too many differences from the lives of those outside the religion, some said.

Tufail, an architectural engineering student, reads novels in English, loves the book “Pride and Prejudice” and spends a lot of time studying. She’s planning for a trip to Japan this summer through the Kansas/Asia Scholars program.

“There’s nothing I do that’s different, really, except for prayers,” Tufail said, of the five times per day she prays.

Islam awareness week

¢ “Women in Islam,” a discussion, at 7:30 p.m. today, in Parlors A, B, C on the fifth floor of the Kansas Union.
¢ “A Day in the Life of a Muslim,” non-Muslim students can shadow Muslim students for the day, Friday.
¢ For more information, visit

Tufail grew up in Kansas City, the youngest child to parents from Pakistan. Her parents weren’t very religious, Tufail said, until they had children and learned it was up to them to pass their religion on to their children.

Tufail attended the Islamic School of Greater Kansas City for middle school and began wearing hijabs, or head scarves, at 14.

There is no doubt that her religion affects her life and how some perceive her.

Tufail recalled attending Lee’s Summit High School in the days and weeks following the 9-11 attacks. Tufail’s family feared how students would react to her at school, as Muslims were targeted in many places.

A friend walked Tufail to and from classes. But some still got to her with their hateful words, she said. They called her names and used racial slurs.

Tufail kept her routine as normal as possible. She didn’t skip school. She faced the ridicule.

“I have to live my life,” she said.

She wrote an article for the student newspaper. She told the students how it felt to be in her shoes and she explained how the terrorists’ actions weren’t condoned by Islam.

“It was my way of setting the record straight,” she said.

The issues at school wouldn’t be her last. Tufail said some people automatically think she can’t speak English. They talk loudly and slowly to her.

Tufail wears the hijab because it is part of her religion. She is faithful to Islam because it brings a sense of purpose to her life, she said.

“I know I stand out,” she said. “I get looks … I’m just practicing my faith. I’m just like any other person.”