Texas Tech University

Honors College student and Biochemistry major Farah Mechref places first in her category in the 2017 Speak Up!

“The Power of a Rose”

Thesis Statement: Islamophobia is an international epidemic. Only you have the power to stop it.

Transcript of the speech presented by Farah Mechref:

The majority of you might attend a place of worship on Sunday mornings or Wednesday evenings. It might be a peaceful time for you to meditate and immerse yourself in your faith. These days, when I go to my prayer service on Friday afternoons, I say a small prayer that no one steps into the mosque, pulls out a gun, and shoots everyone there. I create scenarios in my head for how I would get the children out of the building safely and what I would do if confronted with the shooter. When I’m not at the mosque, I pray that the words “Islamic Center of the South Plains” do not become another headline on the news. This is the reality of Islamophobia and the real people it affects.

Today, I will be discussing the ways Islamophobia has risen has a problem here in the United States, including in our small community of Lubbock, TX.

I will describe the actual examples of Islamophobic acts that have occurred, go on to explain what small kindness needs to be done to stop it, and finally help you visualize what kind of world we could live in with the acceptance of a single rose.

Islamophobia is an international epidemic that feeds into the ideology and desires of the terrorist groups that cause it and that can only be stopped by people like you.

According to the Lubbock County City Data, out of the 58 recognized religions in Lubbock, Islam is the 6th most populous religion. Despite this, the number of hate crimes against Muslims is truly overwhelming.


Farah with rose

There are cases of Islamophobic crimes in Lubbock that you might have heard of on the news. For example, on May 13th, 2015, an individual spray-painted the words “No Muslims” on the seal of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. The irony of it all is that if you think of almost any specialty of medicine in Lubbock, you’ll find that Muslims are interwoven within almost all of them: ophthalmology, cardiology, and dentistry are a few. Out of the two pediatric hematologists in Lubbock, doctors who specialize in childhood cancer, one of them is a Muslim. The irony of the words “No Muslims” on the seal of a medical center was not lost on anyone, but instead brought to light the Islamophobia that has become more prevalent with the increase in acts of international terrorism.

On November 25th, 2015, immediately following the attacks that took place in Paris, the lamps on the outside of the Texas Tech Student Mosque were ripped out of their sockets and used to smash the glass front door. It was fortunate that the crime happened early enough in the morning that no one was in the mosque, but again Islamophobia reared its ugly head.

There are some acts of hate that have happened that you might not have heard of. When my friend realized that part of her tuition goes towards her free ticket to all the football games, she decided to attend one. She only ever attended one because the amount of prejudice, bigotry, and racist slurs she received in response to her headscarf were too overwhelming and hateful for her to even enjoy the game.


Farah Mechref

I’m sure at this point you are all asking yourselves “how does she expect me to stop Islamophobia?” I’ll tell you. It doesn’t involve posting anything on social media or attending any rallies. It doesn’t even involve your personal acceptance of the faith because I understand that there is a fear of this conflicting with your own religious views. Every other week, the Muslim Student Association gives out roses in the Free Speech Area. Attached to these roses are pamphlets that say, “Misconceptions About Islam.” All I ask is that you walk past them and accept a rose. That’s it. You don’t have to read the pamphlet if you’re not interested. But when someone sees you that day carrying a rose, they’ll either already know why you have it or they’ll ask you who gave it you and you’ll be able to say, “The Muslim Student Association.” And that single rose, a symbol for many of love and kindness, can trigger a whole new emotion and perspective in another person.

According to an article from U.S. News, data has begun to show that there is a correlation between fears of terrorist attacks and anti-Muslim bias in the United States, with people associating images of the black ISIS flags and the violent attacks in Europe with the faith of Islam. This is despite the fact that according to the Pew Research Center, “recent surveys show that most people in several countries with significant Muslim populations have an unfavorable view of ISIS.”


Farah

This fear of the faith comes as a result of the treacherous acts that the extremist groups claim to be doing in the name of Islam. Islamophobia has become an international crisis because of this. So when you accept the rose from the students, it’s not going to immediately create worldwide tolerance. It’s not going to put a complete stop to the Islamophobia that exists in the city. But when you accept a rose, that individual Muslim recognizes the acceptance. The isolation that they walk around with diminishes just a little bit. And then if you accept a rose and you accept a rose, then he will accept a rose and she will accept a rose. In their minds, people will stop associating the faith and its true followers with the attacks and the black flags. Instead, they will think of Muslims and they will think of a rose and the way it symbolizes purity and peace. Then maybe somewhere down the line, a young Muslim student who identifies herself by wearing a headscarf can enjoy a football game like a Red Raider. Maybe somewhere down the line, I won’t be so afraid to identify myself with a headscarf.

One day, I hope that I can sit in a mosque without immediately identifying the escape routes. But as hard as I try and as loud as my voice can be, that change will never come from me, a Muslim woman. It will only come from the people who are not of the Islamic faith, but refuse to allow the fear of it.

Hate crimes towards Muslims occur and will continue to occur in Lubbock, and the United States, and the world unless small acts of kindness overpower them. Not only do you have the ability to stand up and reject Islamophobia, you can be the small start to university-wide, then citywide, then nationwide acceptance. All it takes is a rose.

Thesis Statement: Islamophobia is an international epidemic. Only you have the power to stop it.