Uni students march to show Muslims 'they're not alone'

Uni students march to show Muslims 'they're not alone'

URBANA — University Laboratory High School junior Isandro Malik and his family have never practiced a religion, and he has never set foot inside of a mosque.

But that didn't stop him from joining more than 150 of his classmates, and a few teachers, in a solidarity march to the Central Illinois Mosque and Islamic Center in Urbana ahead of Friday prayer, called Jum'ah for Muslims.

"It's important to show the Muslim population and everyone in general that they're not alone," he said. "Obviously, the majority of us in this group don't practice the Islam religion, but by showing up with this group of people, even if it's not that many, it could help their confidence and is good for their morale and our morality."

The two Uni students who organized the event, brothers Omeed and Rahi Miraftab-Salo, were thrilled by the turnout, saying they expected 15 to 30 of their peers to show up for the march, which started outside the south entrance of the school at 1:30 p.m. and continued down Springfield Avenue, all the way to the front steps of CIMIC.

The group left class during "Uni period," which is a free class period for all students on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

"It just happened to fit so no one would have to miss class," said Omeed Miraftab-Salo, the brother who led the march.

The pair have grown up in a Muslim home and are strongly against President Donald Trump's controversial executive order temporarily banning immigration from seven mostly Muslim countries, which a federal judge in Seattle ruled against Friday evening, saying the enforcement of the ban is unconstitutional.

After Trump was elected president in November, there were many discussions in class at Uni about what happened and what would come next, Omeed Miraftab-Salo said. Based on those talks and conversations with their peers, the brothers knew there were a lot of people in school who wanted to make a statement about the ban, which Omeed Miraftab-Salo called a "catastrophe."

They sent out a few emails through a school list-serve and hoped a few friends would join them as they made the seven-minute walk to the mosque for Friday prayer, a service that's similar to Christians attending church on Sunday mornings, junior Umar Hanif said.

"It's pretty amazing. I definitely wasn't expecting this," Omeed Miraftab-Salo said as he walked down Springfield.

"It's nice knowing regardless of what happens, there's this many people who have your back, in any situation," Hanif said.

As the Uni marchers approached the mosque, they were split into groups of males and females, and the boys entered first. Some participated in the prayers, while others stood quietly to show support. At the conclusion of the prayers, the imam, the person who leads prayers in a mosque, thanked the students and was visibly moved by the number of high schoolers who showed up to encourage their peers.

Rahi Miraftab-Salo said he was proud of his classmates for showing fellow Muslims they aren't alone.

"There's a lot of people standing behind us. I hope it gives people more confidence," he said.

Malik said he hopes the turnout is an indication of how young people will continue to act in the future.

"If you think about it, we're the next generation. All these practices and laws Trump is putting in place will impact us," he said. "The fact that this will impact us is very important, more important maybe than it is for adults, so the fact that we're interested and advocating against this is the most important thing."

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CallSaul wrote on February 04, 2017 at 9:02 am

Cue the right wing Trump Republicans frothing at the mouth and sputtering lies and delusions because some students reject their hatred and bigotry in favor of tolerance and respect.