Fatimah Mozawalla is a sophomore Pre-Health and Geography major in Hofstra’s joint BS/MD Program. She has lived in New York her entire life and is involved in the Muslim Students Association, a fellow at the Center for Civic Engagement, a member of the Division 1 Cross Country Team and the pre-professional medical fraternity Phi Delta Epsilon. Furthermore, Fatimah is an active member of the Hofstra community and a diligent advocate for Syrian refugees and anti-Islamophobic education.
Although only a sophomore, Fatimah has spoken on panels about Syrian refugees both here at Hofstra, and as an honors delegate at a conference in Cambridge, MA. While travelling through Turkey and Jordan, two countries with large populations of refugees, she was able to gain first hand knowledge about refugees, their lives, and the situations they faced as refugees in a foreign country. Therefore, when she first encountering negative and incorrect stereotypes and ideas about refugees here at Hofstra, she knew she had to speak up, “There’s a negative perception of refugees because they’re Muslim. They get lumped together and people often think that they’re terrorists because of their religion. I wanted to try to humanize them and change this idea”.
“It’s not a matter of different skin colors, speaking different languages or being from a different place. It’s easy to say, ‘oh, you’re different. Get out.’ But it’s about people and children that are suffering and dying, and we should be helping them”.
Although Fatimah believes that the media often portrays refugees in an unflattering way, she strongly believes in changing the narrative and advocating for them in any way she can. To alter the negative stereotypes and ideas that are often associated with Islam and Muslims, Fatimah has become an active advocate for education about the religion and for what it truly stands for. Fatimah spoke on an Islamophobia panel in September 2016, drawing from her own experience as a Muslim woman. “For me, wearing a hijab is liberating. It’s my microphone,” she said. “It lets me advocate for Muslims and change the mindset of people.”
The Islamophobia panel was Fatimah’s first experience speaking about Islamophobia, and an opportunity for her to speak about ISIS and the future of the USA in regards to Islamophobia. “ISIS doesn’t portray my religion, because in Islam if you kill one person, it’s like you’re killing all of humanity. It’s a political organization that uses religion to mobilize people,” she explained during her speech at the Islamophobia panel.
However, not all students are able to sit on panels with highly regarded professionals, so how can students begin advocating for a cause they care about? Getting knowledge from reliable sources, according to Fatimah, is the first step. “But no action is too small,” she said with a smile, “you’re not expected to go out there and change the world. Every conversation, media post or comment on social media is important. You never know how you can impact someone. Starting small is important, post a Facebook post, attend panels, ask questions. Changing one person’s mindset is just as important as anything.”