(Video above: Basim Ismail dons a blindfold and asks Auburn students for hugs.)
The Auburn Muslim Students Association (MSA) blindfolded one of its members in the middle of campus and stood him next to a sign that said, “I am Muslim and I trust you. Do you trust me enough for a hug?” 90 minutes and roughly 100 hugs later, the group said they believe Auburn students proved they live by their famous creed, which reads, in part, “I believe in the human touch, which cultivates sympathy with my fellow men and mutual helpfulness and brings happiness for all.”
The MSA said they decided to try their idea because they believe “the national conversation is becoming increasingly negative and polarizing,” and they wanted to find out if their campus was “different.”
“I expected not that many hugs, so I was surprised,” said Basim Ismail, the Muslim student in the video. “That was a lot of hugs. There were really passionate hugs, there were high fives. I appreciated all of them. It was awesome.”
When asked if he received any negative feedback, Ismail said, “No, I didn’t hear it… Most people said they really appreciated what I was doing and they were happy to see someone like me doing this out here.”
Asim Ali, the MSA’s campus advisor, told AL.com the stunt was an exercise in empathy.
“The idea was simply to have people think and feel empathy and be able to relate to that,” he said. “Auburn University has a lot of diversity so we wanted to get people to think about what others may be feeling or thinking. Our expectation was that at the very least people might stop and think about how this is a student that’s a part of them that is feeling ostracized by a national dialogue.”