A Different Way

Letter to the Editor

Published May 03, 2012, issue of May 11, 2012.
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In regard to the article “MSA: A Radical Group or a Campus Partner” (May 4) it seems clear that each Muslim Student Association group acts independently and not necessarily in concert with those on other campuses. To be sure, there are campuses where politically motivated, radicalized groups excoriate Israel and intimidate Jewish students and others who are Israel supporters. On many campuses, however, the MSA stays out of politics and focuses on the daily life of Muslim students and their religious and cultural needs, much like Jewish campus organizations.

Here at Stony Brook University, home to large and active Jewish and Muslim communities, we both exist on campus as part of a recognized Interfaith Center (of which I am the chairperson), and thus we follow an established protocol regarding mutual respect and cooperation. Often, all of our religious organizations work together on joint projects, and sometimes just Muslim and Jewish students partner with one another.

Recently, we co-hosted a program presented by a local Holocaust education center on Albanian Muslims who rescued Jews, an eye-opening program for both Muslim and Jewish students. For many years, both Hillel and the MSA have collaborated on charity events. Part of this success is due to the influence of our Muslim chaplain, whom I regard as a trusted partner and colleague. Not only is she a tireless advocate for her students, but she reaches out to the entire campus community to forge common bonds and build bridges between students of different cultures and religions. These students sit next to one another in class, live in the same residence halls and one day will work in the same offices. Now is the time for them to build meaningful relationships so that they can see one another as fully human and not a caricature of what they may think is a Muslim or a Jew. In my experience, most of the Muslim students on my campus closely resemble the Jewish students of a few generations ago. Largely children of immigrants, and often the first in their family to attend college, they are generally concerned with achieving academic and economic success in America, maintaining their culture and religion, and avoiding discrimination. To us, this should sound somewhat familiar.

Rabbi Joseph Topek

Director, Hillel Foundation for Jewish Life, Stony Brook University

Stony Brook, N.Y.

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