More than three dozen Aggies came together on the first day of the fall semester at New Mexico State University to express support for the Muslim community in response to the recent high-profile slayings of Muslim men in Albuquerque.
The Aug. 17 virtual gathering, organized by NMSU’s School of Social Work, brought together nearly 40 staff and faculty members, administrators and students for a town-hall style discussion with representatives from New Mexico’s Muslim community.
Héctor Luis Díaz, director of the School of Social Work, said the gathering offered a space for NMSU to show its solidarity with members of the Muslim community grappling in the aftermath of the shooting deaths of four Muslim men in New Mexico’s largest city. It also served as a call to action to improve racial, cultural and religious relations at NMSU and beyond.
“When very traumatic events like this happen, it creates panic across populations,” Díaz said. “We wanted to do our part to show our Muslim brothers and sisters that we’re willing to work collectively to better the state we live in.”
Participants included NMSU interim Provost Dorothy “Dee Dee” Campbell, NMSU Vice President for Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Teresa Maria Linda Scholz, and Yoshi Iwasaki, dean of NMSU’s College of Health, Education and Social Transformation, which houses the School of Social Work. It also featured Sureyya Husain of the Southern New Mexico Islamic Center and Abdel-Hameed Badawy, faculty adviser to NMSU’s Muslim Student Association.
“With our social justice mission, the College of HEST acknowledges pain and fear for people who have been impacted by this horrific, traumatic incident,” Iwasaki said. “We appreciate this opportunity to participate in community conversations and dialogues, and show a genuine act of kindness to respectfully serve and support the Muslim community in New Mexico.”
During the hourlong discussion, the participants pledged to implement several measures at NMSU to support the Muslim community.
The most notable actions included creating safe spaces for Muslims to pray on campus. Michael Ray, director of NMSU’s American Indian Program, offered space in the American Indian Student Center for this purpose.
The participants also recommended that faculty invite Muslim community members into classrooms as guest speakers to discuss their religion and culture. The group also urged NMSU organizations to accommodate religious dietary needs and practices during campus activities.
“Personally, I was very touched at how heartwarming and welcoming the town hall meeting was. It reflected the spirit of this campus and the surrounding community, which are very welcoming, very diverse and very accommodating,” Badawy said. “The attendance was exemplary of the nature and soul of this institution. As the Muslim Student Association faculty adviser, I think the Muslim student body at NMSU has the support they might not find anywhere else. We are very grateful and thankful that we belong to this community and such a supportive institution.”
Scholz said acknowledging the impact of tragic incidents on communities is an important step to work toward healing.
“In times like these, dialogue is critical,” she said. “Through dialogue, we can learn from people’s lived experiences and can begin to identify proactive strategies for creating a sense of belonging rooted in mutual respect and understanding. I look forward to collaborating with NMSU partners and partners from the greater community on continuing to organize such dialogues.”
Díaz said Aggies can take simple steps to be more welcoming individuals, such as providing simple acts of kindness, promoting education, understanding and unity, and pledging to become lifelong learners of other cultures. He also said students and staff can take advantage of resources available within NMSU’s diversity programs and the Aggie Health and Wellness Center.
He added the School of Social Work’s Diversity and Social Justice Committee is compiling a resource list for public distribution of regional mental health providers offering pro bono services in culturally responsive and trauma-informed ways.