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US Muslim Students for Community Activism

Published: 05/12/2011 01:38:08 PM GMT
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CAIRO - Muslim students at the University of California have organized a new event to discuss different ways they can use to become more active in thei (more)

CAIRO - Muslim students at the University of California have organized a new event to discuss different ways they can use to become more active in their communities and university campus as well.

“With all due respect to our administrators at UCI, they do not know how to handle protests,” Osama Shabaik, a UC Irvine graduate, told the Daily Targum on Monday, December 05.

“When it comes to protests and these types of things, they often times drop the ball.”

Last Thursday, the Muslim Student Association organized event, “Be The Change: Effective University Activism,” was held at 7 pm in Center Hall at the Busch Campus Center.

The event focused on the different ways Muslim students can become active in their communities.

Shabaik is one of the “Irvine 11” student protesters who were arrested after interrupting an Israeli diplomat's speech last year.

The case stems from a protest organized by the Muslim Student Union at UC Irvine of a February 2010 speech there by Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael B. Oren's speech at the University of California.  

Prosecutors said the students interrupted Oren's appearance by yelling "It's a shame this university has sponsored a mass murderer like yourself."

Last September, a jury sentenced the ten Muslim students to three years' probation.

The students were also ordered to perform 56 hours of community service by an Orange County Superior Court judge.

The judge also ruled that the students' probation sentence could be reduced to a year if they complete the community service by January 31.

Though suffering for months during the trial procedures, Shabaik said the Irvine protest should be used as a model for how to effectively challenge injustices that arise from structures of power.

“For us, when you challenge power in the way power wants to be challenged, you're not challenging power,” he said.

“When you make state power uncomfortable, they have to listen to you.”

Political Participation

Though the 11 Irvine students were arrested, the leaders of Muslim associations in California said that students' activism was the only solution to engage more with the society.

“When you continue to hate … and dehumanize Muslims to the point that women in hijab are being attacked, that Muslim kids in school are being abused, that men are being discriminated [against] and assaulted,” Engy Abdelkader, president of the New Jersey Muslim Law Association, said.

“It's happened in other parts of the world, and it can happen here.”

Abdelkader and Salim Patel, commissioner on the Passaic County Board of Education, said the 11 were standing up for their views and exercising their first amendment standing up for their views.

By holding such event, the Muslims were enlightened about the need for their groups to be politically active and aware.

Muslim students were also urged to get out and vote for their democratic rights.

“What good is power if it doesn't result in any type of justice?” Patel said.

Some students who attended the event agreed on the importance of political participation in the US Muslim community.

“The panelists were very well-informed … and I think they effectively engendered a desire to be more proactive,” said Ammar Athar, a School of Arts and Sciences junior.

“I think it's important for anyone — regardless of religious affiliation — to be [actively] involved in the decision-making processes of their communities.”

Reproduced with permission from

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