By Lexi Goldstein
UCF rising sophmore 

Registered student organizations have a right to exist on campus

 


Islamophobia: dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force.

When UCF students walk toward the Student Union, they are greeted by a cacophony of music and welcomed by tables of students. Among the student organizations manning these tables are the Catholic Ministry, Knights for Israel, College Republicans and so on. As students continue to walk, they are handed pamphlets from religious, political, recreational and student government organizations. Students can walk inside the Student Union and witness many different banners of varying size, color and topic. Amongst these banners was one belonging to the Muslim Student Association at UCF. MSA at UCF is well known on campus for its consistent presence tabling outside of the Student Union. Perhaps at schools such as the University of South Florida, which is rife with anti-Israel sentiment, the MSA takes on a different shape and promotes different ideals. However, the UCF MSA is a pleasant force on campus. Its table is always manned by smiling faces eager to open dialogue with UCF students and educating their peers about their beliefs. Its banner read:


“Say: He is Allah, the one and only Allah. The eternal absolute, he begotteth not, nor is he begotten, and there is none like unto him.”

A post was made in the Knights for Israel Facebook group page in response to this banner:

“This is in the Student Union. I am FURIOUS! Something needs to be done. If I am the only one standing underneath this holding a sign speaking truth about the G-D OF ISRAEL then I will. Let’s draw attention to the lies by peaceful protest?!?”

Members of the group, including myself, questioned why there was an issue with the sign or the organization of MSA at UCF at all. Those who agreed with the Facebook post cited the Canary Mission, saying “the MSA is a front for the Muslim Brotherhood.” Other students found issue with the sheer fact “that Allah was promoted.”

For those who are unaware, the Canary Mission lists itself as a “database... created in order to document people and groups that are promoting hatred of the USA, Israel and the Jewish people, particularly on college campuses in North America.” It cites the MSA’s mission in its overview of the organization and then has the following sub-lists: “Links to Radical Islam and terrorism... MSA members who became terrorists... Radical Speakers...” and so on. The Canary Mission believes that the MSA has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, a transnational Sunni-Islamist organization founded in Egypt, which is believed to promote religious fundamentalism at the expense of promoting anti-West, anti-Israel, and anti-Semitic sentiment.


If one attends UCF and frequents the Student Union, she may be acquainted with the MSA of UCF that offers free Henna, free Snickers around finals time, promotes their club by handing out pamphlets, and tables alongside student organizations such as Knights for Israel. Their mission is “...to serve as a platform for all Muslim students, faculty, and staff on campus, and to spread awareness of Islam. Aimed toward diversity on campus.” Front and center on the MSA of UCF webpage, it states: “Religion of Peace... And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily, and when the ignorant address them [harshly], they say [words of] peace... al-Quran 25:63.” I mean unless their sneaking in little notes inside of their goodie bags that say, “Down with America!” I’m not sure why anyone would label this organization as a breeding ground for terrorists.

Some responses to the post were wholly in agreement with me. They found no problem with any registered student organization promoting religion and argued that they have a right to exist on campus and promote their beliefs, even if they’re different from our own. It shocks me that this level of common sense was not shared by all. One of the people in agreement with me was Rez, a member of MSA and current president of Shalom-Salaam, a club aimed toward opening a dialogue about culture between young Jewish and Muslim people. He’s a Sunni Muslim who has read the Quran from cover to cover and a member of Knights for Israel. He dubs himself as simultaneously pro-Israel and pro-Palestine. He describes MSA as a safe space for Muslims that is absolutely necessary with the rising Islamophobia in the country. He said he found the statements of the Canary Mission, which he had never heard before he saw the post, reminiscent of, “President Bush’s ‘War on Terror’... almost like a ‘War on the Islamic World.’” He admits that he can’t speak for all MSA organizations, but emphasizes that MSA at UCF is a very peaceful organization with no ties the Muslim Brotherhood and its radical values.


Frankly, the idea that there are people in this day and age that would suppress the civil liberties of a group of people simply because of their religion disgusts me. I hear about it on the news. I see in on social media. But having it so acutely brought to my attention makes me fear for my generation.

How many others share this view? This blind prejudice reminds me all too eerily of the blind prejudice against Jews. There are discrepancies, but at the heart of it is hate speech and ignorance, which I can’t accept as a logical human being.

 

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