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Muslim students still feel excluded at Belmont

Isaac Wetzel/Belmont Vision

Muslim student Magan Beynah is tired of being excluded. He’s not alone. Although Belmont changed its hiring practice to now consider Jewish applicants, it still excludes applicants of other faiths — and Muslims continue to be ignored at Belmont. Belmont’s campus is composed of students from a number of different faiths. Even with this being the case, faculty is not allowed to represent this, according to the current hiring policy. Belmont provost David Gregory announced on Wednesday the university will expand its hiring policy to include faculty of Jewish faith. Until now, all faculty were previously required to be Christian. This change is seen as a step in the right direction by Muslim students, but many still wonder why their religion remains excluded. Beynah, a Senior finance major, feels that the school would be better off if it followed through with its claims of diversity. “If you're going to try and spread diversity and inclusivity that way, then you have to also make that reflect in your faculty, in your policies and these hiring decisions,” he said. Beynah acknowledged the change and its benefits but still believes Belmont has more room to grow. “I think if you want to say that Jewish people are an important part of our community and therefore we should have them as a part of our faculty, then you should also say the same thing about Muslims, because we are also a part of the Belmont community,” he said. Marty Bell, a professor of religion and church history, said in an email regarding the policy change that he hopes “our future moves to include other world religions in our hiring practice.” Bell further noted the “rich connections” found through his courses with religious leaders of a variety of traditions and how they have been beneficial. Hope Dennis, the president of Belmont’s HOPE Council, also wants the university to expand its inclusivity. “Belmont still has so many more ways that they can improve if it's truly going to be a place of inclusivity for all religions, and our Muslim students are stepping out and stepping up to speak up about what it would look like for someone at a Christian institution to be inclusive to non- Christians,” she said. Dennis said she would like to see the policy continue to expand in order to help the university’s mission of inclusivity. “I think it's a win. I think it's a great step in the right direction. I think that it's something that should be celebrated, but I don't think that it means we stopped asking the hard questions,” she said. Biblical studies professor Mark McEntire was confused by the change as it was unclear why the hiring practices would still exclude other religious candidates. “I'm worried that… Muslim students who, at this point, probably experienced life on the Belmont campus as sort of second class citizens,” he said, “they've now been made into third class citizens by this move. Not only are they a religious minority on campus, but now there's a group of students, in addition who will have, perhaps faculty members who are more like them, but they still don't have that experience.” Aya Sebai, a legal studies major and Muslim, appreciates the change but hopes that the university continues expanding the hiring policy. “I want it to be something from the heart, that they actually want teachers and they see the contributions that they would make to the school if that makes sense. Like I would want them to see that, but if they don't see that then like there's not really much I can do about it,” she said. Sebai wants the university to realize that having faculty that are Muslim won’t go against their goals. “Islam, Christianity we're all Abrahamic religions. We're all, monotheistic religions, and we're known for that. I'll be curious as to why they excluded Muslims from that, especially because as Muslims we see Christians as our brothers and sisters, and we see Jews as our brothers and sisters,” she said.

This article was written by Braden Simmons

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