Being Muslim at YSU


I’yonna Taylor-Smith

According to the Department of Religious Studies, there are only less than 5 percent of students that identify as Muslim at Youngstown State university, according to the Office of Assessment.

World-wide Islamophobia continues to rise and doesn’t seem to be slowing down with all the travel ban support and hate crimes committed in America.

After speaking with Muslim students and faculty at YSU, both Muslim and non-Muslim, there was an eye-opening perspective which you don’t normally get from our usual patriotic friends we walk the country with.

What are the students at YSU who practice Islam doing to bridge the gap between Islam- practicing and non-Islamic practicing.

When students hold forums for people to come and discuss the change that they want on this campus and hire-up faculty, outside of direct professors, do not make an appearance, this can be quite discouraging and making it seem as if they do not care about student voices.

When students directly bring their ideas to the people who can make the change needed, and there is no change or they do not get back to you, that can also see that is discouraging as if the school does not care about your voice.

A multicultural center has been brought up many times by students regarding retention and graduation rates at student-organized events that usually only professors attend.

When asked about ever getting a multicultural center on campus, Tressel, the President of YSU said no one has brought it to his attention or asked him for one.

Tressel then said if there were some examples of other colleges that had successful multicultural centers, he would consider it and look over it.

Long before Tressel was the president of YSU, he was the Vice President for Strategic Engagement at The University of Akron in 2013, which had a successful multicultural center.

In April of 2013, students learned that the staff had a plan to shut down their Office of Multicultural Development the next fall semester and replace it with a Center for Student Success and Multicultural Center which caused a student protest.

Tressel then said they would seek more student input at Akron, however they will continue to move forward in what they [staff] believe is the right track.

When asking Directors about international and multicultural centers, the International Larricia Family International Lounge was mentioned multiple times even though you rarely see international students in there.

Including the fact, lounges and centers for improvement with caring faculty that share common ground with you and safe places are not in any way interchangeable.

Noor Khalayleh, an international sophomore undergraduate student at YSU, studying psychology says she does think that a multicultural center would help the Muslim community.

She said, that t would help them in a sense “that it’ll make us feel more welcomed and understood as a community that is negatively portrayed by the media.”

To back up her statement, there are many Americans who believe that ISIS is the biggest threat to American safety, even though Muslims are ISIS’ biggest victims.

According to Snopes, “Not a single death has resulted from terrorist activity by a Muslim extremist refugee” in which the travel ban was supposed to ease.

When it comes to domestic terrorism, according to a new report from The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund and The Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal, there were almost twice as many terrorist incidents by right-wing extremists as by Islamist extremists in the U.S. from 2008 to 2016.

Ironically, which the president said right-wing extremists were “very good people” following the tiki torch holding white nationalists in Virginia.

On October 1, 2017, Stephen Paddlock opened fire onto a crowd at a concert and killed 58 people dead and 546 injured.

The media never called him a terrorist, but a ‘good man that loved his family” which clearly shows the treatment between the two.

There are groups for Muslim students to join on campus such as The Muslim Student Association (MSA) at YSU that serves as a “community and interfaith service” and is said to offer support to the university’s Muslims and non-Muslims through religious and community events.

They hold both educational and social events throughout the year, advised by Tacibaht Turel.

According to the US Census in 2016, 57 percent of Youngstown’s population identified as religious and of those who identify as religious, 32 percent identify as Catholic.

Under Islamic beliefs, praying five times a day is a part of the five pillars; A set of guidelines that are considered mandatory for believers.

There are only two mosques in Youngstown, and three rooms for students to pray on campus. One in MAAG Library and two in Jones Hall.

Noor Khalayleh said, “Last year YSU made a parlayed room for people to use. My cousins, sisters, and I have used it plenty of times.”

A lot of Muslim students meet each other outside of campus when at the Mosque.
That is also where they get in contact with another faculty that teach and/or work here.

One faculty member where Muslim students go to talk and feel safe is one faculty member where Muslim students go to talk and feel safe is Mustansir Mir.

Mir, the Director of Islamic Studies, is a professor at YSU and a poet. He has written


publications like

. Mir has taught at other colleges in Lahore, Pakistan and higher-ed

Iqbal’s The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam and Commentary on


Three Qur’anic Passages

institutions in America such as University of Michigan.

Dr. Tiffany Anderson, a non-Muslim Director of Africana Studies thinks that making a multi-

cultural center for everyone in the aspect of race, religion, sex, and sexuality isn’t the right direction to move in.

Anderson said, “It’s trying to fix a symptom and not the disease. From an administrative perspective, it’s not worth the cost when you think about the percentage of the university it would be servicing.”

“Specifically, for Muslims, beyond the administrative perspective of numbers, Islamophobia would be the largest obstacle for Muslim students might face that is specific to their Muslim identity and Islamophobia one, will not be solved by a center, and two, has nothing to do with Muslim students and everything to do with xenophobic non-Muslim students,” Anderson said.

Dr. William Blake, Director of Student Diversity agreed, and specifically said that he thinks that we could start by learning more about their culture.

“I think we need to change the way we interact with out Muslim students. I think that we need to have more forums and more ways of exchanging our ideas on how we should act on interacting with individuals with other religions” Blake said.

“We don’t celebrate anything they do. We may know about Ramadan, but not everyone does. But everyone knows about Christmas. Everyone knows about Easter. There needs to be a true understanding of cultures,” Blake said.

Islamophobia-related crimes increased in the United States by 65 percent between 2014 and 2016, according to the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR),

Daniah Khalayleh, sister of Noor and freshmen undergrad student at YSU, studying Pre-Nursing said that she is not so concerned about safety on campus because everyone she has interacted with has been “so kind and friendly” and says that if something does happen, “God forbid, then I’d be concerned for sure”.

Daniah Khalayleh believes that a multicultural center would help also because other cultures can relate and it would be better for campus to interact better.

She also believes that speeches about Islam on campus would help people understand Islam better and said that these could also be Islamic programs and events.

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