An American Muslim at a Jesuit School

Islam is once again front and center on the global stage. A religion of 1.5 billion people is being attacked on a daily basis – by militants within the faith and by fear propagators outside of it.

For me, as an American Muslim, I cannot tune into cable news without feeling emotional, defensive, or sometimes even numb. From Fox News to CNN: “Is Islam the problem?”

I had just started middle school when 9/11 happened. My identity as both an American and a Muslim changed the day the twin towers fell, and my nation’s subsequent response, both domestic and international, highlighted a critical need for dialogue and creative thinking. From that point forward I began to look in earnest for a means of addressing the structural problems I saw around me. Law was a natural place to look.

I often visited the National September 11th Memorial in Lower Manhattan to reflect on where my nation had been for the last decade and what kind of discourse I could imagine for the future.

When I was deciding on what law school to attend, Boston College’s Jesuit tradition sparked my curiosity. What did this “Jesuit tradition” mean? Would I be indoctrinated in a faith other than my own? Would I feel alienated because I was a Muslim? After attending the admitted students day I realized that this Jesuit tradition was fueled by a drive for social and economic justice – something I found to be familiar within my own experiences with the Islamic traditions.

My first semester at Boston College Law School was an incredible one! The semester started off with the LAHANAS Diversity Retreat. LAHANAS is a diversity initiative involving all of the affinity groups on campus along with the Dean’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion (LAHANAS is an acronym for LGBTQ, African/African American, Hispanic/Latin, Asian/Asian American, Native American, and South Asian). During the retreat, BC Law students had the opportunity to meet with attorneys practicing at law firms throughout the city of Boston and gain valuable insight into the practice of law and tips on how to succeed during the first semester of law school. From the attorney panels to the networking reception, it became apparent that there is a critical need for diversity in the Boston legal community.

The 2Ls and 3Ls that helped organize the retreat held a presentation on the Boston Lawyers Group (BLG) – which is a major diversity initiative by Boston-based law firms, corporations, and government offices to promote and provide 1L minority students the opportunity to intern for 5 weeks in-house at a corporation or firm and 5 weeks with a not-for-profit/government office. This past week I had the opportunity to attend a BLG event hosted by Fish & Richardson and was impressed by the level of dedication and seriousness all of the participating members have towards attracting and retaining law students with diverse backgrounds in the Boston legal community.

Boston College Law School’s commitment to diversity initiatives has been relentless. This commitment is evident with the law school’s thriving affinity group programming, the Dean’s initiatives, and by the conversations that are sparked organically in and outside of the classroom.

At times it seems like it is best to remain silent or shy away from conversations discussing some of the most pressing issues facing our nation because they involve complex politics, genuinely competing interests, and often times a difficult path to a solution. But in the halls of Boston College Law School, the study rooms in the law library, the dining hall, or even in the warm and toasty Yellow Room – in those intimate moments with fellow students – I hear these types of conversations. It reminds me that although our individual causes may not be the same, so many of us are fighting for the right of all men and women to live to their full potential – no matter their race, gender, ethnicity, orientation, religion, or disability. That is what social and economic justice is about. That is what the Jesuit tradition has taught me.

This American Muslim is proud to be at Boston College Law School, learning in an environment that embraces and elevates its vibrant and diverse community.

I am confident that through these experiences and the experiences to come I will find my voice to help advance my community, and my nation forward.

One thought on “An American Muslim at a Jesuit School

  1. Zain! Thank you so much for this post!

    You write “At times it seems like it is best to remain silent or shy away from conversations discussing some of the most pressing issues facing our nation because they involve complex politics, genuinely competing interests, and often times a difficult path to a solution.”

    I agree that having those conversations is so important, and those conversations are what I have valued most about my time at law school. I hope that we can have even more conversations like this at the institutional level: panels, lectures, student forums, etc.

    Thank you for your efforts to make these conversations and institutional responses a part of life at BC!


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