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Stony Brook student named Truman Scholar

Stony Brook President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr.

Stony Brook President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. tells Yaseen Eldik that he is a Truman scholar. Eldik's brother, Hysem Eldik, and his mother, Sanaa Nadim, stand nearby during the announcement. (March 30, 2011) Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

One of the images that caught Yaseen Eldik's eye is a widely circulated illustration of a woman wearing a hijab with a rifle slung over her shoulder, a flower protruding from the barrel.

It's one of the stark images that Eldik, a sociology and psychology major at Stony Brook University, encountered in researching how Muslims are portrayed by mass media.

His analysis looked at evidence of "Islamophobia" and included a proposal for an educational program that would break down anti-Muslim prejudice in public schools.

That effort won him recognition Wednesday as one of an elite group of college students engaged in social issues.

Eldik, a Kings Park resident, is one of about 60 students nationwide named Truman Scholars by the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation based in Washington, D.C. He became the first Stony Brook student to win the award.

"I wanted to show that Muslims do not embrace terrorism or radicalization," said Eldik, 20. "It's a person that embraces terrorism, and that's apart from the faith."

He wins up to $30,000 in scholarships for graduate studies and the chance to participate in a summer institute with government agencies and nonprofits in the nation's capital.

Eldik and his family were elated when Stony Brook University president Samuel L. Stanley announced the award Wednesday afternoon, calling it "an extraordinary honor."

Stanley said Eldik's work is particularly timely, with Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) holding a hearing this week on anti-Muslim bigotry. That hearing followed a controversial Muslim "radicalization" hearing earlier this month by Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford).

The award, said Stanley, is an opportunity "to educate people to the fact that Muslims are, of course, absolutely important members of this community."

To his family and those who know Eldik, the award was a source of pride that affirmed his hard work.

Susan Scheckel, an associate professor of English who mentors Eldik, said he's "absolutely passionate" about devoting his life to "overcoming the barriers . . . between religions and groups."

His mother -- Stony Brook's Muslim chaplain, Sanaa Nadim -- was overjoyed Wednesday.

"I'm not just proud of him because he is my son," Nadim said, "but also because he is part of our community and part of the fabric of the American community."

Eldik already has a career goal in mind: working for the Justice Department's civil rights division.

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