For centuries, the Muslim and Jewish communities have been at each other’s throats. The fundamental differences between the two groups have been the cause of wars, violence and hatred on a very large scale. However, during the last two weeks at CSUN, members of both communities came together to discuss the causes and history between the two religions.
In an event titled, “Friends or Foes? The Complexities of Jewish-Muslim Relations,” members of both groups explored the causes of contempt and violence between them.
“Like plants, the space between us gives us the ability to grow,” said Ettel Bubis, a Hillel volunteer from Israel. She explained her statement during the discussion and said that the differences are a good thing, because without them it would be more difficult for people to learn new ideas.
“(Hate) gives you a sense of control,” Bubis said, adding that it is easier to practice hate than love, but emphasizing that people have to try and change the hateful ways of the world.
A lot of this hate manifests itself when people are in large groups, and it is difficult to break out of that group mentality, said Rishona Mackoff, a 24-year-old graduate student at CSUN majoring in genetic counseling. According to Mackoff, much of the contempt originates from dwelling on the transgressions of the past. If we can focus on the present and future instead of the past, there is a better chance for peace among conflicting groups, she said.
When focusing on the present and future society needs to pay attention to the things people say about certain subjects, like the term “self-defense,” said Aaron Tapper, co-executive director of Abraham’s Vision. He said for some groups, “the way people define self-defense will sometimes justify violence.”
Most of the audience agreed that most violence is unnecessary, like the kind that generates from these kinds of definitions.
Over the last two weeks the event held three meetings, with each one building on the one prior to it. The first session had 38 students participate, the second had about 20, and the third had around 13, said Gibran Bouayad, co-executive director of Abraham’s Vision.
Seven students attended all three meetings, Tapper said.
Bouayad said it was difficult for students on a campus like this to attend all three meetings, because of their work and school schedules.
“It’s a work in progress,” Tapper said. “It depends on the students themselves.”
The event was led by Abraham’s Vision, an off-campus organization, and the event was backed by the Muslim Student Association of CSUN, Hillel of CSUN, Associated Students, the Iranian Student Association, and the Jewish and religious studies departments.
“The most effective way is to be integrated,” Tapper said. He said the best way to reach the organization’s goal of inter-faith and inter-culture dialogue was to become part of the campus.
Right now, Abraham’s Vision has three ways of reaching students. A workshop like the one that was at CSUN is one way, but they also use summer programs and class courses, Tapper said.
Campuses with a history of past grievances are usually targeted, Tapper said, but CSUN was chosen because the organization already had contacts at the university, since Tapper is a teacher in the religious studies department.
In the last few years Abraham’s Vision, which was founded in 2003, has been to 15 campuses and has two high school programs. There is also a program where Jewish and Palestinian students can travel to the former Yugoslavia and study the conflicts there, Tapper said.
The organization has seven people working full time on the projects right now, and over 20 part-time people helping out, Tapper said.