We know anecdotally that Muslim college students suffer from Islamophobia, but there was room to learn much more. So, ISPU partnered with MSA West to survey over 500 Muslim college students across California, gaining important insights on the well-being of a vulnerable and under-researched population. What we discovered is already making an impact.
Sadia Khan is a legal studies major at UC Berkeley and a member of her campus’ MSA Political Action Committee. In 2019, she testified on a panel at a California State Assembly hearing on campus climate. During her testimony, Sadia shared with assembly members data from our report on how many Muslim students reported facing religious discrimination on campus both from professors (14.2% of respondents) and peers (31% of respondents).
“Islamophobia is something that has impacted my family and me directly for years. Most of my youth was filled with being called a terrorist by peers and teachers alike. From my brother’s football coach ‘joking’ that he needs to be searched for a bomb to being physically assaulted.” Sadia says.
“These incidents—no matter how numerous—were always overlooked. Had this research been available 10 years ago, it more than likely would have made a huge impact on how seriously these incidents were taken.”
Sadia says opening up in front of legislators was frightening, but she felt compelled to do so, so others don’t have to suffer the same abuse as she did in school. And her testimony had immediate impact. “Assemblymember Shirley Weber actually jotted down the first stat and came back to it once everyone gave their statements,” Sadia says. “She shared her personal experience of being a professor and how much it hurt her to know the percentage of professors who were harming students instead of giving them a space to excel.”
Danna Elneil, Programs Director at MSA West, describes the scene at the hearing, saying, “Her testimony nearly brought committee members to tears as they vowed to work towards developing stronger resources for Muslim and other marginalized students on campuses.”
Immediately after Sadia’s testimony, MSA West was able to provide assembly members even more ISPU data from our collaborative report, ensuring sound research would inform policy.