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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: To protect Islamic Center we need education, not nets

The Islamic Center of Tucson, adjacent to high-rise complexes Sol Y Luna, is in the news for the third time since classes have commenced. The issues are the same as before: residents — primarily UA students — were spewing racist remarks and throwing glass bottles, eggs and other debris into the parking lot of the center. This deplorable behavior puts the Islamic community who frequent the center in dangerous situations.

The issue isn’t that most of the residents chucking trash into the parking lot are inebriated — that’s an unequivocally lazy defense. The root of the problem is that they’re culturally misguided. The imprudent actions by the residents are, in part, the result of alcohol, emotions and peer-pressure. The behaviors are then projected through their contorted perception of what is socially acceptable behavior, defined by the upbringing, influence and ingrained culture of the residents — and racism.

Thus far, there have been some legal provisions imposed by GMH Capital Partners, the management company behind Sol Y Luna, decreeing that the company retains the right to “secure the balcony door so that residents and their guests could not access the balcony.” While the previous management company retorted by fining residents embroiled in such behavior, the new company, GMH, also states in its letter that it plans to take any appropriate action permitted under the lease and applicable law against residents involved in intolerant behavior including, but not limited to, eviction.

Consequently, GMH has proposed to hold a town meeting regarding the actions of its residents and plans to offer sensitivity training to all residents in the future. While this is a step in the right direction, the more apposite action would be to mandate a cross-cultural awareness and diversity training surrounding Islam.

Conversely, the residents can take initiative and take an intro to Islam course through the School of Middle Eastern & North African Studies at the UA. Doing so will not only culturally benefit them, but also educate them on what the religion is really about. Regrettably, through the media’s rendition of Islam, students and the general public get the wrong impression of what the religion is about. All they hear about are radical militant groups such as ISIL, Hezbollah and Hamas in the news and figure that those groups represent the whole of Islam.

The deliberate refrainment from viewing militant groups as Muslim is due to the fact that they are not worthy of what it means to be considered Muslim, as they illuminate Islam is a perverse light. The groups do, however, use Islam as a way to warrant their actions, and are thus bound to the religion, even while many deem their actions unreflective of Islam.

Thus far, GMH management company has proposed a net to be put over the parking lot. However, according to Tucson News Now, Mahmoud Obagi, a spokesperson for the Islamic Center, stated “We’re more looking forward to having balconies closed off or having a permanent structure that is … better looking than some type of net that would really look ugly and not protect anyone.”

A net would, indeed, not solve the issue nor would it be aesthetically pleasing. More evictions of residents are needed, and as Councilman Steve Kozachik suggested, “The real answer to this though, in my world is the peer influence. Setting some kind of self governance structure on site, like an RA in a dorm, a hierarchy of kids who will self police.” Unfortunately, this is the best reaction to the irresponsible and inconsiderate actions by the unruly residents. The concept of the residence assistant position has proved rather effective in the dorms, so why not test it out in the apartment complex? It can only improve the strained relationship between the Islamic Center, residents and the management company.

While the management of Sol Y Luna has a number of options to consider, in order to diffuse the currently tainted atmosphere, the residents must also work alongside GMH and the Islamic Center to secure a more hospitable and tolerant future. Change is a two-way road, so in order for it to transpire, all of the parties involved must be on the same page and devoted to resolving the current issues while working amicably to ensure repercussions are established in case any future disputes arise. 

Follow Michael Cortez on Twitter.

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