Like her classmates, the 18-year-old had been waiting for the June 8 ceremony all year, facing it with a mixture of excitement about new beginnings and sadness for what she was leaving behind.
“Graduation day was amazing. I spent my time with my family, friends, and loved ones,” she recalls. “My family made me a surprise party a couple of days after the graduation ceremony. It was the best thing. I have never felt so special before.”
While she waited for the ceremony, Shakir pulled out her cellphone for a little Web-surfing, along with many of her classmates. But it would have been easy for a visitor to pick out which student was Shakir: the resident of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, was the only graduate whose cap and gown ensemble included the traditional Muslim head covering known as a hijab.
That’s essentially the picture presented by Muslims in and around the Corvallis area: They have pretty much the same lives as every other mid-valley resident, but they occasionally look or act a little differently while living it.
Most mid-valley Muslims are familiar with the questions their religious and cultural observances can prompt. Corvallis is among the cities to have learned by painful experience that people’s lack of knowledge about Islam can spark fear and anger, hatred and violence.
But Muslims who spoke with the Democrat-Herald and Gazette-Times said for the most part, they feel welcome and respected in Corvallis, even when someone is curious about the trappings of their religious or cultural traditions.
“I love Corvallis. It’s a very warm and welcoming community,” said Ibrahim Moussaoui, 20, a mid-valley native and Muslim whose parents came to Oregon from Algeria. “Overall, the community is very supportive and understanding of many cultures, Islamic included.”