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MSA meets to talk about recent violence

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By Ali Basrai

Contributing Writer

[email protected]

Feb 24, 2015

   The University at Albany Muslim Student Association held a public event on Feb. 12 to discuss the recent Chapel Hill shootings and the portrayal of Islam in the media.

   The discussion was organized by Khalafalla Osman, president of the UAlbany MSA. The room was filled. The discussion began with local Albany Imam Arsalan Haque reciting verses from the Quran and then speaking about what happened in Chapel Hill.

   On Feb. 10, 2015, three Muslim students were killed at a housing complex near the University of North Carolina campus in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Deah Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, were shot to death by Craig Stephen-Hicks, 46, their neighbor.

“We have to understand this incident is a larger context,” Haque said. Haque argued that Islam is consistently being reported in a negative way by media in the United States.

  According to Haque, this reporting is often due to the growing deaths and injuries happening to innocent people across the world from terrorists who claim to be committing these crimes for Islam.

   According to USA Today, 27 percent of Americans believe that ISIS, a terrorist group that have captured significant territory throughout the Middle East and the Levant, is an accurate representation of Islam.

   Haque says the actions of terrorists across the world does not accurately represent the religion of Islam and does not define the millions of Muslims across the world who live normal innocent lives, such as the three students in Chapel Hill.

  “We’ve seen this with other minority groups, and Martin Luther King’s dream is a shared dream,” Haque said.

   After Haque’s speech, Osman moderated an open discussion with students in the room.

   “We are all humans, and we all deserve to live,” Jamie Warfield, president of the student group Hillel, said.

   Osman, who lives in Albany, recalled how local members of Christian and Jewish churches came to help the Annur Islamic School after the building was vandalized following Sept. 11.

   Chrisel Martinez, director of Multicultural Affairs in the Student Association said “these events are important so we see what is happening in the world, and come together to stay strong.”

   Many students joined in the discussion and offered words of condolences for the three slain students, and reiterated the value of accepting the beliefs of all people, regardless of race, religion and lifestyle.

   Osman ended the discussion by showing the Syrian Dental Relief Project, which one of the shooting victims was involved with. Barakat was planning to travel to Rihaniya, Turkey in the summer of 2015 with other dental students and faculty at the university to provide dental care to refugee students in the Salaam School, who are currently staying in Turkey.

   Barakat had posted a short video on YouTube called “Project: Refugee Smiles” in September of 2014 explaining this project and the fundraising page on youcaring.com for people to donate so he and his colleagues could successfully travel to Turkey by the summer.

   An emotional Osman said to everyone that MSA will be tabling the upcoming weeks to collect money for Barakat’s relief efforts.

*Editor’s Note: The writer of this article is a member of the Muslim Student Association at UAlbany.

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