The E-block assembly that took place in the Roberts Dubbs Auditorium, the Middle Eastern assembly, centered both on educating the student body about the Middle East and on the stories of Middle Eastern students.
The assembly began with a powerpoint presentation by senior Selin Asma. Asma explained that because the media inaccurately represents Muslims, she wanted to educate the audience. Although the majority of the population of Middle Eastern countries is Muslim, other religions are present throughout the region as well. She emphasized that women have the choice to wear a hijab and that wearing one is not a symbol of oppression. Asma defined Islamophobia as “hatred, disapproval or fear of Muslims.”
Asma then played “Meet a Muslim,” a video featuring Muslim-Americans. One man in the video commented on why being Muslim is not the same thing as a terrorist, saying, “Christianity is to Al-Qaeda or ISIS as Islam is to the KKK.” Asma concluded the presentation by debunking myths about Muslims, including that all of the Middle East is at war and that everyone from the Middle East is a terrorist. “How can something so serious as terrorism be a joke?” Asma asked.
Iranian-American senior Kamran Sakhitab was the first to tell his story. He spoke about being taunted in fifth grade by his peers for bringing ghormeh sabzi, an Iranian stew, to school for lunch. Sakhitab focused on feeling as if he had to choose between his White and Iranian identities.
Junior Maya Kassis, a Syrian American, was the next speaker. Kassis spoke about the power of hope; hope, she said, is why there are people who chose to stay in Aleppo amidst violence, and she clings to the hope that one day she will be able to go back to Syria.
Senior Jeanine Nasser followed Kassis. Nasser spoke about her Palestinian identity and told her story of the first day of kindergarten, when her parents told her not to draw attention to herself or tell her peers about her origins. She said that she shouldn’t have to compromise her identity so that her peers feel comfortable.
Last to speak was Iranian-American sophomore Ranna Shahbazi. Shahbazi said that she loves America and Iran.
“My love for both should not be mutually exclusive,” she said.
Shahbazi finished by offering some advice: spread love and kindness, and learn to give everyone value.