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Muslim-Jewish tension persists

Radio host tries to steer leaders of UCI groups toward constructive dialogue, but they hit same political deadlock.

May 13, 2010|By Gretchen Meier

“In a … debate, students from each group will come out and support those they identify with, but won’t listen to the opposing viewpoint,” Yerushamli said. “It will only increase the polarization. A barbecue would allow both groups to interact and speak with each other on a personal level, something that isn’t happening otherwise.”

Zarka argued that because AFI is a political group and MSU is a religious group, the groups should interact about issues instead of over food.

Yerushamli also said that the current president of the MSU, Mohamed Abdelgany — one of the 11 students arrested during Oren’s speech — refused to collaborate with Jewish students on an initiative to raise money for children affected by the conflict in the Middle East.

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Zarka dismissed accusations by Yerushamli that the MSU sponsors speakers with an anti-Semitic agenda.

“As a group, we do not support every word that comes out of a speaker’s mouth,” Zarka said.

Lehrer and Al-Marayati provided context to the discussion by speaking about the issues on a national and legal level, but they did not bring the same passion about campus issues as Yerushamli and Zarka.

Despite Mantle’s best efforts to encourage speakers to discuss ways students could improve relations, the conversation disintegrated into the student groups stating their fundamental differences: The MSU wants what it believes to be equal representation and fair debate on campus, while AFI wants the same, but not through the same forums.

One audience member asked Yerushamli and Zarka what three things they would like to see change on campus to improve relations.

Zarka asked for the university to eliminate favoritism in scheduling events on campus, to bring dignitaries from both sides to campus, and the chance for an open debate.

Yerushamli said he just wants students from both organizations to be friends, citing a lack of interaction as the main factor in the recent tensions.

The KPCC AirTalk forum has been in the works since the incident at Oren’s Feb. 8 speech at UCI. Neither UCI nor the city of Irvine showed interest in hosting the event, and due to scheduling, it was delayed.

The students arrested at Oren’s speech did not speak at the forum because their attorney, Reem Salahi, did not want them to implicate themselves. Zarka was asked to participate in their place.


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