Article by Daniel Ray
The Muslim Student Association of Penn State hosted a candle lit vigil on March 4 in front of Old Main in honor of three African men killed “execution-style” in Indiana on Feb. 24.
As the sun set, a group of students collected on the stone staircase of Old Main facing the silhouettes of the American and Pennsylvanian Commonwealth flags. Each student and several State College natives held white candle sticks with flames protected from the wind by four-ounce paper cups turned wind guard. The students stood in silence as three Muslim Penn State students, Rabiyatu Jalloh, Hamsa Fayed and Zaher Kyat, spoke out against the apathetic indifference that the American media appears to have towards Muslim deaths.
The one hour combined speech contained passages from the Qu’ran and the words of civil rights leaders. It also illustrated the notion that the issue of racial killings extends beyond impacting one minority group.
“It doesn’t matter whether or not this was a hate crime,” said Jalloh. “A human life is a human life.”
The men, Mohamendtaha Omar, Adam Mekki and Muhannad Tairab, were recent immigrants to Fort Wayne, Indiana from East Africa, but had no known ties to local violent gangs. Omar and Tairab were Muslims while Mekki was a Christian, according to The Washington Post.
The facts of the case provide considerable doubt as to the nature of the crimes committed, but the verses used in Kyat’s speech from “Where Is The Love?” by The Black-Eyed Peas provided context for a much bigger narrative, shifting the emphasis away from who killed who and why. Kyat addressed that this was the reason that prompted the Muslim Student Association of Penn State to organize the vigil.
“Where Is The Love” is a song about the power of the media and the images it broadcasts to young minds. It calls attention to the kinds of content that we digest every day. The Black Eyed Peas describe that negativity is not just seeing violence acted out in the form of a shooting in a videogame or a news report, but that a celebrity’s antics or a politician bashing people of a certain faith sets a precedent for how young people feel they need to act.
The Black Eyed Peas used “Where Is The Love” to promote the idea of a higher moral/ethical imperative in the American Media. The speakers at the vigil used “Where Is The Love” to do the same.
Feature Image Credit: Anthony Amato