Thursday, October 18, 2007

MSU Headlining OC Weekly

'Against the Wall'
Praying, eating and bowling with the most hated student group at UC Irvine



With a brief red flash, the sun disappears behind the trees at Aldrich Park in the center of the UC Irvine campus as I pray.

“Pray as if this is your last prayer,” instructs a man standing in front.

I place a digital recorder on the ground. A dark-skinned man at my side says, “Follow my lead.” We bow and then lie prostrate on cooling cement. I stand at the end of a row of 30 men, shoulder-to-shoulder. Behind us, another row has nearly the same number of women. All the women wear hijabs, or scarves over their hair and neck. We bow in unison.

The man at the front is named Kareem Elsayed; he’s 21. He leads the prayer with a musical and mournful verse. His cracking voice invokes an abysmal melancholy. I have no idea what he’s saying, but the suras—chapter of the Koran—flow meditatively, centering and calming the Muslim Student Union (MSU) of UCI. Suddenly, familiar words: “Allahu Akhbar.” Followed by several beats of silence. “Allahu Akhbar.”

God is Greatest.

The phrase, in its most reverent use, is a parallel of the Judeo-Christian “Hallelujah” (Praise to God). But the words “Allahu Akhbar,” repeated melodically, strike a cold chord. A simple statement of belief that has become, to many non-Muslims, synonymous with extremism, a jihadist battle cry. Much like the group that now utters it, the phrase has become indelibly linked in many minds with intolerance.

The prayer ends. I dust off, feeling content and serene. I haven’t prayed in months. The Muslim prayer seems as good as any other, I guess.

It’s dusk, and the students begin ambling toward a picnic table near Ring Road, a narrow walking and biking road encircling the park. They are hungry. It is late September, and the holy month of Ramadan is in full swing. The students break their sun-up-to-sundown fasting regimen—no food, water, sex—with a sweet date.

I eat a date, too; it’s good. Elsayed tells me that dates are high in glucose, providing an instant rush of energy and potassium for rehydration. The perfect appetizer for a thirsty, starving Muslim.

The women and the men of the group eat at separate tables. It’s part of tradition, one of the students tells me. Like the conservative dress of the women, eating separately is a way to avoid the distractions of physical attraction so one can focus only on God.

I pile delicious lamb and some kind of spicy rice on a plate and move to a table full of solemn faces. “Mind if I sit down?” I ask with a smile.

They neither object nor invite. They barely look at me, instead staring at their plates. Three thin freshmen and a man in his 40s who looks like an Arab Tony Soprano sit at the table. Not a word is said for several minutes. One of the young men is somewhat sloppily eating with his hands; the rest use plastic cutlery.

“So,” the Soprano look-alike asks me, “how long have you been a Muslim?”

“I’m not a Muslim,” I answer.

He raises his eyebrows and turns his attention back to his food. He seems to regard me suspiciously, not surprising considering the MSU is likely the most hated––and feared––student group at the university.

Complete Article

2 comments:

muslim hatred said...

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Student Forced to Shut Down Blog by Campus Muslims

The following is a disturbing story based on an interview I conducted with a student from UC Irvine who chooses to remain anonymous.

What if you were forced to shut down your blog because you feared that your voice could put your family in danger? Such was the case of OC Apostate, an ex-Muslim blogger whose philosophical journey has estranged herself from UC Irvine’s Muslim Student Union.

I started a blog as way to express myself. Word finally got around that it was me and my family got threats that if I didn’t shut up something might happen. I didn’t want them to suffer for something I had done. So I deleted everything.

What business does a student group have in bullying or quelling free speech? Such a threat is implied and insidious, but nevertheless is worrisome to immigrant groups who fear going to the authorities and whose religious community is central to their individual lives. In some Islamic cultures, the retribution for apostasy is to hold the collective family unit accountable for the actions of an individual; hence her deviation from the Muslim faith is being utilized by the MSU to pursue self-serving goals to intrude on and destruct the personal lives of her family.

I don’t underestimate them. When I backtrack in my past mentality, it would seem very offensive. The notion of a traitor in your own community is the worse thing that could possibly happen. There is no room for ex-Muslims in a Muslim society. The punishment for being an apostate is death.

While she acknowledged that the MSU’s issuance of fatwas might be a stretch, the very fact that her alleged spread of negativity about Islam was part of an action item at one of their meetings is another example of the lurid and secretive record of the MSU this recent year. Such a record includes inviting the most radical and repulsive speakers to campus who pledge for the divestment of

Israel, while silencing sources of their disrepute; funny for a group who accuses the FBI of unwarranted surveillance.

The MSU has a history of carrying out vendettas against critics who are largely Jewish or conservative. Hardly established on the basis of sound theological reasoning, the MSU has rapidly created a culture of militancy to intimidate and instill fear against anyone who discredits their zeal and agitation. As ardent supporters of Hamas and Hezbollah, their hatred of Israel carries over into their disdain of Jewry.

There are a lot of old world stereotypes. They often complain that Jews have their hands on everything. I’ve also heard of an incident when a member of the MSU threw rocks at a Jewish student.

The Case of an Apostate within their Organization is Unprecedented

OC Apostate’s philosophical journey is a very interesting one. She says that she grew up in a very religious household and was often more dogmatic than her parents in practicing customary rituals. Like every devout Muslim girl, she wore a hijab and prayed everyday, and had a burning desire to become more fluent in her spiritual education. In high school she became president of the campus Muslim organization, and in college she became a popular writer for one of the most widely read Muslim-American publications.

But as her education surpassed the restricted sphere of Islamic scholarship, so did her own personal constitutional test.

Before, if something didn’t make sense to me. I simply made the justification that we were mere mortals, and there are certain issues that are just beyond our realm to solve and realize.

I began to read other philosophic and religious authors like St. Augustine, Descartes, and Plato, and I just started to have doubts and I am now an ex-Muslim. I thought I could fake it out until I graduated, but my grief made my grades slip in school and I often felt sick and paralyzed. The last thing to go was my outward appearance.



OC Apostate’s unveiling of her hijab was immediately offset with contempt in her community.

They saw me with my hair out. They knew who I was. The reaction was a lot of gossip and speculation about my upbringing. Women who I didn’t know gave me dirty looks. I often wondered do they have a webpage dedicated to me called “Persecute this Girl!”

While OC Apostate is beginning to take steps towards her future, she pledges to remain inconspicuous about publishing her thoughts and increasing her visibility as an activist against Islamic extremism, but she remains proud of what she’s done.

I can say with authority that I was sincere (in my conversion). Being an activist within the Muslim community is a collective risk. I feel bad for my Muslim friends because they get ridiculed for hanging out with me.

The silencing of OC Apostate is a startling and yet another example of a criminal threat committed by the MSU. Of all places, students at an American university have an inalienable right speak their mind. If they can’t handle a blog that counters the claims of their faith, what right to they have defending it?

Anonymous said...

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"Amrika, the Belly of the Beast"

and

Incitement on Campus: UC Irvine, February 2, 2005