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Muslim Student Association president is comfortable in her hijab

Muslim Student Association President condemns racism

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Syed is determined to wear her hijab despite any judgement she might face

Syed is determined to wear her hijab despite any judgement she might face

Courtesy of Sumiyah Syed

Courtesy of Sumiyah Syed

Syed is determined to wear her hijab despite any judgement she might face

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Correction: The previous version of this story cited Syed as a freshman. She is actually a senior at CSULB.

In a world where women and Muslims are both marginalized in the media, one Cal State Long Beach student has found an opportunity amongst chaos.

Sitting on a black bench outside on a warm day, Juwairiah Syed describes her life as a leading female figure in an already turbulent political climate.

“I know there are people, even on campus, who look at me and feel a certain way that is not very respectful because of my hijab,” Syed said, CSULB senior and Muslim Student Association president. “Chances are, if someone doesn’t like Muslims, they’re not going to like me. Whether I wear the hijab or not, my skin color is brown. I’m a woman, so I will always be a target.”

Due to recent political issues involving Muslims and a rise in Islamophobic attacks, Syed’s parents have asked her if she still wants to wear the hijab. Syed is determined to always wear it, she says it’s a part of her now and it makes her feel safe.

“It was a long journey for me to start wearing the hijab,” said Syed, “So I took my time with it and began wearing it before starting college.”

Syed plans on majoring in American sign language linguistics and deaf culture. She also works at Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes, a center that helps develop skills for reading comprehension, writing and math for students.

One of her goals is to surround herself with a diverse group of people with different backgrounds and beliefs. She says this way, she’s always learning something new and is one of the reasons why she loves being MSA president.

“I voted for Juwairiah to be the new president because she is a kind and open-minded person who has the ability to make anyone feel welcomed,” said MSA member Shuruq Emano. “That’s exactly what the MSA needs in a president and what people want in a friend. I’m proud to call her both.”

Despite challenges she faces as a student, Syed doesn’t feel hindered in her position as MSA president.

“When I’m stressing out for school, I’m okay with going at my own pace,” said Syed. “[But] when I’m stressing out for the MSA, I know it’s affecting other people, so I need to be on top of things. It’s something I enjoy putting my effort into because I know it’s helping improve the community around me.”

After being accepted to CSULB, Syed knew she would end up joining the MSA on campus — which is why she joined on her second day of her freshman year.

“I know Juwairiah will continue the tradition of the MSA as a space for students to build lasting relationships, work in their spiritual development, and help understand their roles as Muslims in the community,” said MSA member, Fatima Abdelhafeez.   

One of Syed’s favorite moments at CSULB was becoming the vice president for a progressive church from Long Beach area, called Interfaith Project.

It was in USU 306. I was with some friends and we were studying in there because the room is convenient since it’s near the Reflection Room, which is where we go pray,” Syed said. “Interfaith Project came in to have a meeting and we asked them if we should leave, but they said we could stay. So, we did and we ended up loving it.”

After the meeting, Syed and former MSA president Aliyah Shaikh) made Interfaith Project a temporary student organization at CSULB. This led Syed down the path of becoming a part of different organizations at CSULB, aside from the MSA, to take on new roles and surround herself around others that were outside of her circle.

Although Syed said she has never dealt with racism personally, it still affects her. After President Donald Trump was elected, Syed’s friend who attends Long Beach City College told her that students on campus demanded her to take off her hijab.

“For me, wearing the hijab is a lot more than just a headpiece. It’s the way you speak, act, the way others perceive you. Even though you don’t want people to judge you, you know that some people are going to judge,” said Syed. “So, I knew that wearing the hijab, people will look at me as an example of a Muslim, which is why it’s really important to me to follow my religion and be a great example of it.”

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