Butler, the former vice president of the UNC Muslim Students Association, came up with the idea of a web-based reporting application, Project Mawla, that provides a space for private reports of Islamophobic experiences. He said it is important for these victims of discrimination to create their own narratives of their own truths.
“I want people to look at this or even look back at this and say that this was a moment where Muslims created that space, where they created their respective tools to empower themselves,” Butler said.
Rachel Pappalardo, the website’s front-end developer, said Project Mawla aims to provide a platform for those who are marginalized, especially Muslims.
“This is to help them have a voice through a community and to document the travesties that occur against them,” Pappalardo said.
Raza Samimy, the website’s full stack developer and UNC graduate, said he hopes enough people will report their experiences to the website, so data can be collected and analyzed.
Samimy and Butler said a goal of Project Mawla includes bringing software and coding access to local organizations and communities. This would allow for the development of location-based Project Mawla websites.
Samimy said the project is important in combating the idea that Islamophobia is not a reality in Muslims’ lives.
“Saying that it’s not a prevalent issue is very dismissive especially in our society now, specifically where our belief system is under constant scrutiny due to the media as well as misunderstanding,” Samimy said. “Just dismissing it inherently causes more a distance between us, so the more we can bridge that the better.”
Butler said if Muslims want to report their experiences to the police or news agency, Project Mawla will allow them to download their reports as PDFs. He said he wants Muslims and other people to have access to the project, so they can easily communicate their stories if necessary, but some have claimed the website will not do anything to combat Islamophobia.
“While that is definitely a valid critique, from my stance as a paralegal, I know what it looks like for cases to take months and months to go through the court system, and I know what it looks like for a defendant to get up on a stand and they don’t remember what happened since they haven’t equipped themselves with sort of like a clean and concise documentation of what may have occurred to them,” Butler said.
Butler said he wants people to stop thinking acts of Islamophobia — like the deaths of Deah, Yusor and Razan — are random and isolated.
“No matter how seemingly small the discrimination is, it’s still connected to this larger institution or system of violence,” Butler said. “For some people, it might just be a slur and for others, it may be a bullet in the head, but at the end of the day these are not isolated incidents.”
Butler said the website should be running by the end of November.