Campus Profile: Marwah Al-Jilani

This week's campus profile is all about the incredible, Marwah Al-Jilani, a senior at Oregon State who has a few thoughts on current events around the world. 

Name: Marwah Al-Jilani

Hometown: Portland, OR

Major: Political Science International Studies

Minor: Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies

Year: Senior

HC at OR State: Tell me a little about your family's origins and your story as a Muslim American?

Marwah: My dad is Palestinian and grew up in Cairo. My grandfather on my father's side was born in Palestine but in 1948 during Nakba he left and migrated to Egypt. My father was one of nine. My mom was born in Afghanistan and after the soviet invasion she and her family fled to Pakistan. They would often hide out at night until they made it to Pakistan. They were refugees in Pakistan for two years, and then they immigrated to the U.S. as refugees on Thanksgiving Day. My parents actually met in Corvallis, before returning back to the Middle East. I was born in Qatar, but I moved to Portland when I was very young. Due to the fact that both my parents had their citizenship, I also gained U.S. citizenship.  


HC at OR State: How has that cross cultural background affected you?

Marwah: I think it is sometimes hard to come from a multi-ethnic background because it's hard to feel like you belong. You often feel out of place because you are somewhere in the middle and you don’t fully belong on one side or the other. However, as I have gotten older I think I have come to find a sense of belonging in this middle intersectionality. Who I am complements each other, and it makes me who I am and I am proud of that.


HC at OR State: Do you wear a Hijab?

Marwah: Did I wear a Hijab? Yes. I went to a private Islamic elementary and middle school where a Hijab was a part of our uniform. When I went to high school I continued to wear a Hijab in school. Only when I got to college did I really stop wearing it. If yes or no, why? To be completely honest I don’t like people asking me why I chose to wear a Hijab because often times it isn’t out of care or understanding it is out of people's own selfish desires. Wearing a Hijab is very personal and is different for everyone who wears it so what I say may differ from what another person says. I don’t wear it for your curiosity. Also, this question implies that there has to be some larger meaning to why I wear a Hijab and that assumption is unfair. Also if you ask me why, I am not obligated to tell you, because mostly people are just asking because they want me to reinforce their own preconceived ideas.


HC at OR State: How have you, or someone you know, been discriminated against in your life due to your religion or ethnicity?

Marwah: As I said I went to a public high school in Beaverton, which is a mainly white christian area. On the very first day I was sitting in the cafeteria eating a bagel, a white male student came up to me and said “terrorists don’t eat bagels.” I remember my sister wanted to go off on him, but I begged her to stop. All I wanted to do was be normal. From that moment on I dedicated the next four years trying to prove that I fit in, and was only accepted when I would fit into the standards that my fellow classmates had created for me.


HC at OR State: Have you noticed a change in society since the ban was put in place?

Marwah: For me seeing people go to protest at the airports, and to stand up for Muslim immigrants. Or to see people stand and protect Muslims praying in the airport was a very real thing for me to see. I never thought in my entire life I would see things like that. The support in the last week has been utterly shocking. To me these acts are signalling a shift in our culture, and you are starting to see people demanding what they need, and what they deserve. At the same time, this doesn’t come close to discount the daily reminders I have of islamophobic sentiment around me. There is such a lack and unwillingness to separate the religion from extremism and it is leading to the detriment and suffering of muslims worldwide.


HC at OR State: If you could talk to people who support the ban, what would you say?

Marwah: What I want these people to understand how emotionally numbing it is when you are a part of a targeted people, and by targeted people I mean an oppressed group in society, it hurts your personal development. When you are fundamentally dehumanized everyday of your life you sometimes lose sight of your own humanity, and that is detrimental to growth as a person. We have seen this before, and when people lose their humanity, they lose their hope. You start to understand that you can see why there is resistance. When you understand that to resist is to love not hate then we may begin to shift the conversation.

Check back next week for another amazing campus profile!