MSA sets misconceptions straight

By Lita Gaithers |Staff Writer|

According to its president, members of the CSUSB Muslim Student Association covered their mouths with tape and walked the campus of CSUSB on Oct. 11 in support of 11 University of California at Irvine and Riverside students convicted of charges of conspiracy and disturbance on Sept. 23.

The count was conspiracy to disturb a meeting as well as an additional charge of disturbing a meeting when Michael Oren, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States spoke at UC Irvine last year.

I recently attended a CSUSB MSA meeting and spoke with its president and members about their concerns and campus demonstration.

According to CSUSB MSA president, Medina Sahak, “the Irvine 11 are 11 Muslim students who protested a speech by Michael Oren at UCI on Feb. 8, 2010. These students were arrested and convicted for standing up and exercising their free-speech rights during the ambassador’s lecture and the CSUSB MSA believes that the charges against the students were extreme and unjust.”

She further stated, “One by one, the protesting Muslim students were led out of the meeting by security after they stood and voiced their objection. Without force or resistance, they willingly allowed the authorities to remove them from the meeting. They did not hurt anyone, or damage any property.  Did their behavior really warrant such severe punishment?”

When asked if their demonstration was successful, Stephen Khatib, a CSUSB MSA member said, “It was very successful. We passed out about 130 fliers, answered a lot of questions about the Irvine 11, and created awareness about how the free speech rights of students could be violated when protesting on campus.”

Sahak said, “The CSUSB MSA organization has been operating on campus for eight years. This is my first year as president, and I like the job very much.  I know a lot of people are relying on me to perform well, and I feel honored to serve.”

MSA has 20 to 30 members who attend meetings regularly on Thursdays at 12 p.m. in the Student Union Skybox room 207/208. Anyone can join the organization. “We’re open to everyone regardless of race, faith, or gender,” said Sahak.

In the CSUSB MSA meeting, members talked about upcoming events and outings that included hiking, and a weekly soccer game.

“Beginning Nov. 8 we’re planning a three-day event on campus called, ‘Hijab Challenge Day.’ CSUSB students will be asked to cover their hair and parts of their face with the head dress known as a hijab. On Nov. 10th, in the Student Union, students will participate in telling about their experience wearing the hi-jab,” said CSUSB MSA member, Mahbuba Hammad.

When asked of misconceptions about their religion, Khatib said, “One misconception is that some think that only people from the Middle East are Muslim. We have people from different cultures who are Muslims. There are Americans, Africans, Europeans, Arabs, and so forth that practice the religion.”

“In fact, the CSUSB Associated Students, Incorporated (ASI) has categorized our organization incorrectly. The ASI has listed the MSA as a “cultural” organization, instead of listing us as a religious organization. We’re students who are connected by our faith, not a culture. I hope this article helps to correct that,” said Sahak.

Khatib states, “Our advisor, Dany Doveiri, probably sums up the biggest misconception of our faith in regards to what happened on 9/11 and its connection to the Muslim faith. He said, ‘before they hijacked those planes, they hijacked my religion and practiced it the wrong way.’

I believe that UCI treated the Irvine 11 unjustly due to misconceptions of Muslims in America, and our organization is trying to tear down those walls with acts of peace, and unity.”

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