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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Muslim students say chaplain’s suspension won’t affect activities

    Members of the UA Muslim Students Association said the suspension of the head Islamic chaplain of the New York City jail system for controversial comments he made last April at a conference they sponsored will not affect the activities of their organization.

    Iman Umar Abdul-Jalil, the executive director of ministerial services for the Department of Correction, was suspended on March 9 after he said at the conference that Muslims were being tortured in Manhattan lock-ups and referred to there being “”terrorists”” in the White House.

    Abdul-Jalil also said Muslims should not allow the “”Zionists of the media to dictate what Islam is to us.””

    The comments were made at the Tucson

    There’s no way
    we would let someone speak who encourages terrorism. We use our conferences to promote education, understanding and awareness.
    – Sarah Dehaybi, Muslim Students Association, president and pre-psychology junior

    conference held on April 15-16, which had a theme of “”Building Bridges Among Humanity.””

    A counterterrorism organization, the Investigative Project, secretly recorded two speeches given at the conference by Abdul-Jalil and released the recording to the New York Post.

    Abdul-Jalil, 56, was put on administrative leave from his $76,602-a-year job for two weeks, but New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he would not be fired for the comments.

    Bloomberg cited free speech concerns, but said the suspension would be for not following policy to make it clear to his audience that he was not speaking on behalf of New York City.

    Sarah Dehaybi, president of the Muslim Students Association, said the controversy has not had a negative affect on the organization and said they will continue to sponsor conferences with guest speakers.

    She said the student group is as much against terrorism and violence as anyone else in the country and said the group is conscientious in choosing its speakers.

    “”It’s very sad because the conference was about building bridges within the Muslim community and with other cultures,”” she said. “”(The controversy) could lead to further stereotypes of Muslims in the West.””

    Dehaybi, a pre-physiology junior, said she did not see the speech in question, but said she did hear Abdul-Jalil’s other speech at the conference. She said she believes his comments were taken out of context.

    “”There’s no way we would let someone speak who encourages terrorism,”” she said. “”We use our conferences to promote education, understanding and awareness.””

    Dehaybi referred to the secret videotaping as a punch in the stomach, but said she was not surprised to learn a counter-terrorism organization was present since people connect the Muslim faith with acts of terrorism.

    Physiology senior Miriam Hoda, member of the Muslim Students Association, said she did not attend the speech because she was working with registration.

    Hoda said when she first saw Abdul-Jalil’s comments in the paper she thought they were really harsh, but said after talking to members who had heard him speak, she felt the comments were taken out of context.

    Hoda said when the news broke, she felt like being Muslim had made the group automatic suspects.

    “”I was shocked that our small, UA student-run conference of about 140 people drew the attention of national spies from ‘anti-terror’ intelligence agencies,”” she said. “”Most of the members were born and raised here, it makes you re-think everything you do.””

    Hoda said at first many members of the organization felt guilty about what had happened since it was at their conference.

    “”We were planning on writing letters to NYC congressmen, but then we found out he wasn’t being fired,”” she said.

    The suspension was baseless since organizers and conference attendees already knew Abdul-Jalil was not speaking in his capacity as New York City chaplain, Hoda said.

    Biophysics sophomore Jamal Nadeem said the national attention of the controversy won’t change the activities of the club.

    Nadeem said he attended the speech in question and said it wasn’t a radical speech.

    “”No one there thought it was controversial,”” he said. “”It was taken out of context, it was unfair.””

    Nadeem said he was a little annoyed about the videotaping, but said there should be cameras documenting their conferences since the group has nothing to hide.

    Media Arts senior Justin Mashouf said controversial or radical comments aren’t rare on university campuses and said other clubs likely have speakers who make such comments.

    “”It’s like any other club, people know the guest speakers don’t necessarily reflect the mission of the club,”” he said.

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