Students react to U.S. response at open-mic night

Ben Figa

Some students are angry. Others are afraid. Many simply feel numb.

The Muslim-cultural Students Association, Arab Cultural Society and South Asian Students Alliance hosted a open-mic night Monday in Norris University Center for students to voice their feelings and reactions to both the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the United States’ response. Held after a memorial service earlier in the day, the discussion was informal and many shared their personal views.

In attendance were Associated Student Government President Jordan Heinz and Vice President of Student Affairs William Banis, along with about thirty students and faculty. Heinz was the first to speak.

“Honestly, I have not really been able to talk about how I am feeling and what’s been on my mind,” said Heinz, an Education senior. “I loved to see people of different backgrounds, beliefs and perspectives talking about the same thing.”

Some students said they fear being discriminated against in light of blame for the attacks being placed on Muslim extremists.

Kamel Aranki, a Weinberg senior and ACS member, explained that while the tragedies were occurring, his mother told him, “I hope it is not an Arab, because then I am scared for you.”

He also said he was terrified to take an airplane. “I can’t fly back home — there will be a red flag on my name. I will be scrutinized and people will look at me,” he said. “I would rather take a bus.”

McSA president Jawad Hussain, a Weinberg senior, commented on the darker side of America’s response to the increased violence.

“Since the attack we’ve seen the best and the worst of America,” he said. “We’ve seen firefighters risking their lives to save people and we’ve seen people committing hate crimes.”

He also captured the general sentiment of pacifism that ran throughout the evening.

“I hope the leadership realizes the human suffering of Afghanistan,” he said. “Dropping bombs and trade embargoes are not going to alleviate the suffering of those peoples.”

But not everyone felt so passive. Speech junior Rachel Davis was one of the few who, when asked by show of hands, agreed with war as a possible reaction. She defended her position by asking, “What happens when diplomacy does not work? Threats are the next step.”

Although Davis did not advocate war, she said she wanted to voice a non-pacifist opinion in order to open up dialogue.

At the end of the discussion, some students signed banners that either will be sent to the New York and Washington, D.C., fire departments or kept here at Northwestern. The banners will be kept at Norris for the remainder of the week for other students to add their sentiments.

Even with disagreement, SASA president Chirag Chauhan said he was pleased with the informal discussion format.

“Understanding is something I want this university to work on, and that’s why I wanted this forum as a place where people can come cope and talk about the situation,” said Chauhan, a McCormick junior.

This will not be the last time students will able to express their feelings in a public fashion. Chauhan explained that “this is a beginning, it will take time for everyone to come together and have a place to talk.”