The heads of the leading Jewish and Muslim student organizations at York have decided it’s time for joint action to calm the troubled waters that Middle East politics is causing on campus. Although both organizations have ongoing concerns about the conflict in their ancestral homelands, they also realize that debate has been interfering with their members’ main purpose at York – to study and earn a degree.
Haseeb Kamal, president of the Muslim Student Association at York, and Eva Zucker, president of Hillel at York, decided to meet and develop some way of getting out the message that students be allowed to study in peace. The result was a letter to the student newspaper Excalibur, signed by both presidents, appealing to people to focus on the two sides’ joint heritage as Abrahamic religions instead of on their differences.
“There’s been so much going on lately that’s so unfortunate and we wanted to see what we could do,” said Zucker, who explained the letter was a first step in a campaign to develop future joint cultural activities. “We’re hoping to have joint meetings with the MSA and Hillel next year and work at coming together on programs towards Jewish students and Muslim students getting together more.”
Most people in both groups are regular students going about their business who don’t want political issues to interfere with their studies, Zucker explained.
Below is the text of their letter, which ran in the March 12 issue of Excalibur.
Two brothers, one family
Torah, Genesis 17:3-7: “God spoke to him saying ‘…your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you most exceedingly fruitful, and make nations of you; and kings shall descend from you.’”
Qur’an 2:136: “We believe in God, and in that which has been bestowed from on high upon us, and that which has been bestowed upon Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and, their descendants…we make no distinction between any of them.”
We are here to stand, in contrast, to the racism and bigotry that has spiralled out of control on our campus. Over the last few months, the amount of hate being publicly expressed towards Jews and Muslims, as well as other minorities, has skyrocketed drastically. There have been numerous events that have taken place which have done nothing but perpetuate hate and cause division. As Jews and Muslims, we must come together and focus on peace building. We have much more to offer when we’re united than when we’re divided.
The commonalities between Islam and Judaism are astounding. As descendents of Abraham, we share history and core religious values, which stress peace and togetherness. At the end of the day, our religious teachings come down to a manifestation of mercy and loving our fellow man.
We hope this can be the start of a long-lasting relationship between the Jewish and Muslim students at York University. Students should not find themselves walking through Vari Hall feeling isolated and unwelcome. This University should be a place that embraces multiculturalism and academic debate. While issues and differences of opinion exist in every family, our discussions must be civil and productive, and our distinctions must serve as a way for us to learn and grow from each other.
Together, we can work towards common values that serve to benefit the entire York community. Today, we face important social issues in our own backyard where we bear primary responsibility. We are not here to try and rid the world of global conflict and religious fundamentalism. Instead, it is incumbent upon us to strive to create a peaceful campus as a stepping-stone to a more peaceful world.