Atheists on Islam: How the Atheist Community at UIUC Perceives Islam and Relates to the Campus Muslim Community

Abigail Holmes


The Illini Secular Student Alliance (ISSA) is a registered student organization for the nonreligious student community at the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign (UIUC). In 2010, they promoted an event called “Draw Muhammad on the Quad,” where students drew stick figures labeled ‘Muhammad’ around the UIUC campus. This was inspired by a larger, national event called “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day.” The event caused ISSA to be labeled by some members of the campus community as Islamophobic. This paper will explore how current and former ISSA members view Islam and the Muslim community at UIUC. Do they view Islam as more dangerous or ‘radical’ than other faiths? Do they have a cogent understanding of the basic tenets of Islam? Additionally, this paper will research whether they feel that events such as “Draw Muhammad on the Quad” serve merely as expressions of free speech or are meant to ostracize and criticize members of the Muslim community. What effects, if any, do ISSA members feel that this type of event has on the Muslim community at UIUC? This research was conducted by interviewing current and former ISSA members. Information was also obtained using articles written by ISSA officers on their official website. The interviewees themselves viewed Islam as no more dangerous than other religions, but they expressed mixed opinions on whether or not the campus community and larger atheist community were Islamophobic. The interviewees expressed little support for hosting another controversial event such as “Draw Muhammad on the Quad” and stressed ISSA’s participation in interfaith events.

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Copyright (c) 2015 Abigail Holmes

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