By Erika Kellerman and Elaine Cary
Each year, Carlow University invites a speaker to attend the academic convocation for first year students. On Tuesday, September 20, Dr. Moustafa Bayoumi, the author of this year’s common reader, spoke to students and faculty about his book and acknowledged the commencement of the school year.
In his book, “How Does It Feel to be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America,” Bayoumi illustrates the obstacles Arab-Americans face on a daily basis, primarily in Brooklyn, New York, due to prejudice in the United States. Within Dr. Bayoumi’s book are seven profiles, or “portraits,” as he calls them, that focus on individuals and their commonalities as well as their own unique experiences. Behind the podium at convocation, Bayoumi highlighted the importance of accepting all religions and ethnicities, and creating unity by celebrating differences among us.
Following the ceremony students followed Dr. Bayoumi, who evidently captivated his audience, to Kresge center. There, a question and answer session was held with faculty and student participants.
I cannot educate everyone. It is not my job. Americans as a whole need to help one another and educate their friends, family, etc.
Dr. Bayoumi spoke about diversity and division in America. He explained that we [as Americans] need to live as communities, rather than just being individuals in this vast country. We need to “fight together for the community.”
Dr. Linda Schifino’s question involved trust between minority groups and white people, and what we can do to form a bond rather than lose trust. Dr. Bayoumi claimed trust is a big, important, and confusing concept. Some people, especially the media, exploit fear. “You’re going to be afraid of the unknown.” To combat this, Dr. Bayoumi said we must understand political rhetoric from all quarters of the world and to be friends with people who do not speak, think, or look like us. This, Bayoumi said, is how you become knowledgeable and unafraid.
Dr. Bayoumi added that non-Muslim/non-Arabic Americans shouldn’t be afraid to speak up. “If you’re a part of the political community and are committed to advancing yourself, Muslim/Arabic Americans will appreciate you trying to educate others.”
Bayoumi touched on some of his own experiences as well. As a native Canadian, he was able to compare/contrast Canada’s “conviviality between Muslims and Christians,” with the United States’ slow progress toward unity among all religions.
Dr. Bayoumi left his listeners and inquirers on a progressive note after being prompted with the question everyone wanted to ask: “How can we help?” He explained the need for those suffering from religious and racial prejudice to get their stories told. With more emphasis, however, Dr. Bayoumi highlighted the necessity of organizations and stakeholders to hold the United States Government accountable, because, if we citizens don’t, who will?