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Muslim community reflects on local support

Three Muslim students were shot dead outside of their apartment complex in Chapel Hill, NC Tuesday. Police are saying this is an escalation of a longstanding dispute over a parking space.

While the shootings are still being investigated, the current speculation is that it was a hate crime. Events like these serve as a reminder that anti-Islamic sentiment is not uncommon in the U.S. today.

In November, Oxford's local Walmart location added halal meat to its meat department in order to accommodate the Muslim community. The request was petitioned by a number of Muslim Miami University students and faculty members.

Store manager Elijah Woodard made the final decision to offer Crescent brand, certified halal meat to Walmart's inventory, leaving many Muslim customers with a more convenient grocery shopping experience. The decision spawned controversy among many local Walmart shoppers, who left dozens of racially charged comments on The Miami Student online article about the halal offering.

Many complained the slaughtering method for halal meat is inhumane.

Others' comments expressed resentment of Islam in general, some going so far as to say they are boycotting Walmart for "bowing down to Islam."

The anti-Islamic sentiments that followed the news of Walmart's halal offering do not reflect the entire community, according to Miami alumnus Mubarak Abdi.

"There is no place for bigotry in an academic setting like Oxford," he said. "However, with that being said, I have never felt any discrimination or hate [at Miami University.]"

Abdi attended Miami from 2008 to 2014. He served as president of the Muslim Student Association (MSA) for one year, and was surprised by the negative nature of the comments he read online at the news of halal meat being offered locally.

"During my time at school, I was grateful for all of the community support I was offered as a Muslim student," he said.

Abdi described the relationship that he watched develop between the MSA and the Oxford Presbyterian Church. The Christian church hosted a number of opportunities for Muslim students to come and pray and practice their religion.

Abdi described wearing a kufis, or traditional white Muslim dress, on campus each Friday, and said he never experienced hate or distaste from students.

"It is important to remember there are good and bad people in every religion, country and culture," sophomore Mohammad Shafi said. "We shouldn't let the bad minority of people define the good majority of people."

Shafi was not fazed by the backlash from what he describes as the minority of the Oxford community. According to Shafi, anti-Islamic sentiment still exists because of those types of comments.

"Their views are from what the media presents to us," he said. "[The media] is a big factor for the negative backlash towards Muslims, all because of the actions of a small, horrible group of people."

Shafi described his life in Oxford as peaceful, filled with friends of all faiths and backgrounds.

He also expressed how grateful he was for the convenience that Walmart's halal meat section has brought him.

"Freshman year, I had to rely on food brought from home," he said. "Walmart is still selling non-halal meat and the food is there for those who want it. No one is obligated to buy it."

Shafi added that eating out in Oxford has always been a struggle and he has had to settle with vegetarian dishes.

The halal section at Walmart has made him feel more welcome in the Oxford community by accomidating to his preferences.

"The Oxford community has been our back bone," Abdi said. "These negative comments do not change that. I am eternally grateful."