Islamophobia forum fills room to capacity

Karla Enriquez, Editor-in-Chief

“True Islam condemns terrorism,” a pamphlet read as it was passed around a local neighborhood in an effort to stand up for their Muslim occupants.

Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Hussam Ayloush said, “As a human rights activist, it breaks my heart that you even have to do that. No community should feel like it is being underseeded, that it has to prove its humanity.”

On Thursday, March 24, history professor John Haas facilitated an open forum on Islamophobia where Ayloush spoke to a room full of listeners and attendees had a chance to voice their opinions.

It was presented at the forum that 63 percent of Americans have unfavorable views of Islam while 60 percent admit they don’t know about the religion.

1.6 billion people follow Islam, making it one of the most diverse religions.

The Science 201 lecture hall was full to its maximum capacity, prompting campus police to deny attendants entry after a quarter to noon.

According to Captain Hans Strand, some students were receiving extra credit for attending the forum, prompting a high turn out which caused him some concern.

Haas stated, “I was thrilled to see the room at maximum capacity. I think this was the largest crowd I have had in that room because people could not get inside.

“On a couple of other occasions I had full houses. I hadn’t expected the numbers. I would like to give a shout out to my student Zeinab Aboukhalil for helping me organize the great turnout.”

At the forum a student took to the microphone and asked if there should be reformation for Islam giving the speaker a chance to address extremist groups.

Ayloush said, “If these terrorists can really make a case that Islam is driving this action, they can’t. […] These terrorists don’t have Muslim scholars on their side, what it is is gang members in Europe and Belgium and France, former army officers from the Saddam Hussein army, Assad regime people.

“These are not religious people […] they’re angry or they’re mercenaries, whatever the reason, there are many reasons, and they join these groups and commit these crimes.”

He continued, “They misquote, take verses from the Quran out of context to justify what they are doing, but if you spend five minutes with them, that is all it takes […] you can refute their argument.”

Ayloush expressed that Muslim scholars condemn extremist groups and in his opinion Islam is the answer to the misappropriation of the religion at the hands of ISIS.

“Every Muslim scholar that i know of, the famous and the less famous, have clearly unequivocally condemned these groups, so if there was a problem of Islam justifying that, I would say yes, but actually, the cure to the horrific twisting of teaching Islam by ISIS is Islam itself. Islam is the cure.”

“In my opinion Islam is the antidote to this twisted ideology.

According to Haas, the open forum came about after Dean of Student Services Gilbert Contreras and Student Activities Program Coordinator Amber Dofner approached him to produce the event.

“Our goal was to educate students and faculty about Islam and to make sure that our Muslim students felt safe on our campus during times of backlash against Muslims,” the history professor stated.

Contreras stated that overseeing the office of student conduct and grievances brought to his attention that there may be some students who practice the Islamic faith that may not feel welcomed at the college.

“Islamophobia I think was an incredible event and I’m very grateful and thankful to professor Haas for putting together such a meaningful, impactful, timely, and thought provoking conversation about some situations that may be impacting our students.”

After some of the concerns were brought to ASCC, Contreras felt it needed to be addressed.

“I think it is important for us to dispel all of the myths to get rid of the ignorance and to talk about what is actually part of the religion.

“Dr. Hass did such an incredible job bringing a speaker who is world renown and well known in Southern California to do exactly that, to educate our students, our faculty, our staff and our community about an […] an important topic.

Not everyone met the event with high praises as Geography Professor Aline Gregorio expressed that she was astonished to hear of faculty opposition to an event like the open-forum.

She stated that instructors have an obligation to academic integrity as students do and the best way to fight this kind of opposition as a faculty member is by using “truth, and fact-based lectures.”

Hass noted that the event was influenced after the events in Paris, San Bernardino, and Brussels as well as the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria along with ISIS.

Ayloush spoke on how human conduction makes a difference, stressing that is important for Muslims not be isolated and encouraged the sharing of food and tradition.

“When people interact and see and humanize that big boogey-man called Muslim, then they realize it is not really a boogey-man.”