GREENVILLE, SC. — An South Carolina college student offered hugs in downtown Greenville this weekend as part of a “Hugs for Humanity” social experiment.
Alend Barzenji said he decided to conduct the social experiment after recent terrorist attacks around the world committed in the name of Islam.
“I’m here conducting a social experiment in light of recent events such as the bombing in Paris,” Barzenji said in a video posted to YouTube “A lot of people judged Muslims harshly, thinking that all of us, our entire religious group, are terrorists. I’m here to prove that not all that is true.”
Barzenji stood in One City Plaza on North Main Street on Saturday with a blindfold on and his arms spread. Beside him, he had two signs. One said, “I am a Muslim. Humanity has labeled my kind as terrorists. #NotAllMuslimsAreTerrorists.”
The other sign said, “I trust you. Do you trust me? Give me a hug. #HugsForHumanity.”
Barzenji said hugs, for him, create a unique opportunity to unite people of all backgrounds.
“It’s as close to someone as you can get to express your trust, love, and appreciation for their being,” he told WHNS. “Think about it; from the time we are born, as babies, we are hugged by our parents and we do the same for our children and other loved ones to comfort them. It makes us feel special and raises our self-esteem.”
The video shows dozens of people in downtown Greenville stopping to embrace him.
He described the public response to his experiment as “a truly miraculous experience.”
“Nothing negative was said to me and, frankly, I was a little surprised,” he said. “Everyone either congratulated me for my bravery of standing there so vulnerable, thanked me for expressing what some could not find the courage to express, told me they were proud, and just had nothing but positive things to say.”
Barzenji said he is currently working on other clever ways to spread his message of love and acceptance.