Almost a year and a half ago, the College Republicans at UC Irvine ‘unveiled’ the controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that originally ran in a Danish newspaper. At the time, I was the president of both Anteaters for Israel and Hillel: The Jewish Student Union at UCI, and because of tensions between these organizations and the Muslim Student Union, I was asked for a comment on the event, which spiraled horribly out of control. My response to the reporter who had called me was that I was sorry that Muslim students on our campus had to go through this terrible ordeal of someone attacking their religion, and that I knew from experience how it felt to have another group on campus attack the principles of my own religion.
In the weeks that followed, I had hoped that the realization of what it feels like to have one’s religion attacked in so gruesome a manner would lead to an awakening of sorts. It is in the spring of each year that the MSU puts on its ‘Zionism Awareness Week,’ in which it denounces the state of Israel and its supporters, attacking one of the major tenets of modern Judaism (support for the state of Israel). After the cartoon event, I figured that the rhetoric would be toned down, and that there would be a better situation on campus, as we all knew what it felt like to have our religion attacked. Unfortunately, I was wrong, and the rhetoric was turned up, and the anti-Semitic week of events took place as though it were the Jews on campus, rather then the College Republicans, who had held the cartoon-unveiling event.
A few weeks ago, a nationwide event called ‘Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week’ was scheduled to take place, with satellite events taking place at UCI. Due to the wildfires, no events were actually held here but, understandably, there was a debate in this very newspaper as to what the true intentions of the week were, and the Muslim community at UCI took offense to what it deemed was an attack on their religion.
It is with this knowledge that I attended events during the MSU’s ‘Islam Awareness Week.’
I was pleased to not hear any attack on Zionism (the political movement to support the State of Israel) or Israel itself during the proceedings. I was also pleased to see events put on by the MSU that actively promoted the peaceful and self-improving aspects of their religion. I was encouraged by the fact that there was no message that could be construed as degrading of any religious group on campus. I write this article with a new sense of hope.
The fact of the matter is that no religion at our public university should be denounced. No group on campus should actively pursue an agenda that is intentionally hurtful to another campus organization. It is something that I hope no club president has to deal with, especially with my personal knowledge of how it feels.
In the very pages of this newspaper, I have been attacked by various spokespeople of the MSU for holding the opinion that promoting a cause and denouncing a group of people have nothing to do with each other. I sit typing this article with the knowledge that I will probably never see the culmination of the optimism that I have expressed after seeing how heartfelt the response of the MSU to ‘Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week’ was, although I will spell it out again in the newspaper that has all too often become a forum for bickering between Muslims and Jews at UCI.
It is this very optimism that I express to the readers of the New University and to the many members of the MSU who read it, that I hope you remember your gut feeling when you found out that your religion, the teachings that have raised you and gotten you to a major university in the United States, were about to come under attack on that very university’s grounds. Think back to that day and recall how distressed you were to know that at this university many of us call home, your basic set of beliefs was going to be attacked. I assume that not one of you wants to ever feel that again, nor would you wish it on anyone you know. I ask that you remember that sentiment when spring quarter rolls around and you find yourself planning ‘Zionism Awareness Week.’
Remember how you felt when your religion was under attack, and ask yourself if you really want to attack someone else’s religion the same way. It is far past the time for hate speech to continue at UCI, and I am now calling on you, my fellow students, to make a choice to end all hate speech on campus, as a leader of a group or an individual. Stand up to those who bring hate mongers onto campus, and let them know that UCI will no longer harbor hate speech. Let the speakers know that they aren’t welcome on your campus. Together, we can effectively change the campus climate into one where everyone is comfortable and can learn in peace.
Alex Chazen is a fourth-year political science major. He can be reached at email@example.com.