A Responsibility to Listen

It has come to my attention in recent weeks that we as Emory students have a responsibility to educate ourselves about the different ethnic and religious groups here on campus and to be open-minded regarding our differences. The last thing many of you probably want to read about is another article about the mock eviction notices created by Emory’s SJP group during the Israel and Israel Apartheid week earlier this April. I will not be discussing the mock eviction notices or the politics surrounding the issue. What I will be discussing is the fear these mock eviction notices caused in both the Jewish and Muslim communities, from my own experiences and perspective, and why I believe this fear is unacceptable.

            I am not a religious person, although I find the study of religion to be extremely fascinating. This has led me to academically explore the different religions of this world. Aside from my academic studies, I have really enjoyed forging deeper connections with my Jewish friends by attending Hillel and Chabad and learning about what Israel means to them and their community. Through studying Arabic, I have also had the opportunity to become more exposed to the Muslim community on campus and have also made some really amazing friends involved in the community.

Given my connection to both groups, I have had a few Jewish friends approach me after the mock eviction notices to inquire if anyone in my Arabic class had said anything anti-semitic in class, or if my professor or any of the students had said anything about supporting the mock eviction notices. I immediately found this to be ignorant and insensitive, as I know my professor and friends in the class would never say anything that would make the Jewish students in my class (there are at least 2) feel marginalized or uncomfortable. I knew my friend was personally hurt by the mock eviction notices and anti-Semitism on campus, but I was also upset that she would assume my professor or classmate would say something hurtful on the basis that they are Muslim.

            Earlier this week, I had a Muslim friend from my Arabic class voice a similar concern to me after the ablution room in Rollins for Muslim ritual purification was desecrated. In fact, I was unaware the room had been desecrated (although it was later determined to be an accident resulting from a medical emergency), and was embarrassed because of my ignorance. My friend voiced to me that she was upset the university had not released a statement to the entire student body about the incident with condolences to the Muslim community, especially as Claire Sterk had released not one, but two statements after the mock eviction notices with condolences to the Jewish Community. She also voiced that there was speculation it was a Jewish student who had committed this act of desecration. I remember thinking that the Jewish community would never do something so hateful towards the Muslim community. I also remember thinking that it was not fair the Muslim community felt that their voices were not being heard across campus.

            The point that I am trying to make is that the Muslim and Jewish communities on campus should not fear each other. Fear and ignorance give rise to hatred, and I do not want to see this vicious and unforgiving entity consume our campus. We don’t choose the culture or religion we are born into. No matter what cultural or religious group we are a part of, we reserve the right to voice our concerns and be acknowledged. We also have the responsibility to educate ourselves on the concerns of other groups if we ourselves want to be heard. Not doing so is a true dishonor to yourself and your humanity.

If you want to continue the dialogue about the Israel-Palestine question at Emory, BridgeEmory is hosting an event this Monday, April, 22 at 8:00 pm in White Hall 208, in which seven student leaders will be voicing their perspectives about the issue. I think it will be an extremely enlightening event, and it is truly so important that we as students stay aware and open-minded about such important issues.