The Muslim-Jewish Dialogue Club met last night to explore Muslim and Jewish relations in its newly official and undergraduate format.
Seven people attended the meeting, which touched on subjects ranging from the latest referendum vote in Israel, to a discussion of the Mexican population of Isla Vista, to reactions to American Students for Israel speaker Sheikh Abdul Hadi Palazzi.
Religious studies graduate students Aaron Tapper and Aysha Hidayatullah founded the club in January 2003 to provide a forum for discussion among graduate students. In April, Tapper and Hidayatullah opened the club to undergraduates and registered with the university.
“We used to meet at somebody’s house and create a space where we talked about political issues as well as personal stuff,” Tapper said. “We were all getting a lot out of it. Before I came to Santa Barbara, I lived for four years in the Middle East and worked on conflict resolution and dialogue. I knew I wanted to be a part of that here.”
The newly elected presidents of the club, undeclared sophomores Jaeson Plon and Muneeb Hussain, said participation in the club is an opportunity to facilitate dialogue and create a safe place for students to air their opinions.
“I’d rather have peaceful dialogue where people are able to speak their minds,” Hussain said. “[Through the club] I had the opportunity to learn more from listening to other people and maybe give something back to the school.”
The largest meeting of the club was held after Palazzi came to campus to speak about the role of the Intifada in Muslim culture, which had resulted in a conflict between several members of the audience. Approximately 70 people came to the club’s emergency meeting to discuss their reactions to the tense atmosphere and confrontational speeches.
“I know a lot of people went in there with a predetermined thing that they were going to say, regardless of what the Sheikh had to say, and it came out in a combative way,” Hussain said. “When I saw people who supported Israel and people who supported Palestine fighting – it was so pointless. That’s the reason that we have things like this, so that doesn’t happen.”
Plon said the reactions, which seemed to be verging on violence, had no place in civil conversation.
“I was angry at the reactions that occurred. It made the environment feel unsafe and was very frustrating,” Plon said. “It’s going to be hard to repair. [The club] is an opportunity to defuse tension and promote communication.”