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University reacts to MSA vandalism

By Max Breitstein Matza
On March 16, 2010

  • Imam Talal Eid condemned the vandalism of the Muslim Students Association's suite at last week's vigil. Shaefali Shandilya

Brandeis students, faculty and administrators voiced their solidarity with the University's Muslim community at a vigil held last Friday after the March 5 vandalism of the Muslim Student Association's prayer suite in the Usdan Student Center. University President Jehuda Reinharz, Associate Dean of Student Life Jamele Adams and the four University chaplains also e-mailed a joint message of support to the Brandeis community last Wednesday. "We unite in solidarity with all our Muslim students and assure them that this kind of action will not be tolerated at Brandeis. Any act of vandalism, especially those that target a particular religious or cultural community, is deplorable," according to the e-mail. The statement was made as the vandalism was being reported by the Boston Herald, the Boston Globe, WCVB-TV Channel 5 Boston and the Huffington Post.

Last Friday, President of the MSA Neda Eid '11 and her father, Imam Talal Eid, discovered that the MSA suite had been vandalized only three weeks after $80,000 in renovations had been completed. The intruders had violated the privacy of the suite by unplugging electronics, bending silverware as they attempted to use it to open a sealed door and stealing the Imam Eid's Quran containing two years of notes and sermons. The vandals had also left their shoes on while in the prayer space, an act that desecrates a mosque. University Police are continuing their investigation on whether the act was prompted by animosity against Muslims.

Innermost Parts founder Sahar Massachi '11 began to gather online signatures for an open letter expressing Brandeis' solidarity with the Muslim community. The letter reads, "We, the students, faculty, and staff of Brandeis University, love and support our dear Muslim friends and family. ... We reject this hateful and juvenile act. ... Know this-the vandalism does not reflect the sentiments of the Brandeis community or our values." Regarding his decision to intitiate the open letter, Massachi said, "I was feeling really angry and helpless." As of last night, 575 signatures were on the list.

Massachi and MSA leaders organized the rally last Friday during the weekly peace vigil. In the presence of at least 50 attendees, Massachi presented Imam Eid with the open letter. The normally low-key weekly peace vigil was attended by University President Jehuda Reinharz, Director of Public Safety Ed Callahan, the University chaplains and local media.

Robert Mesike '12, who attended the vigil, praised the imam's speech for "condemning the acts rather than the [vandals] themselves and still wanting to keep the Brandeis community intact."

In a March 12 interview for the Waltham newspaper The Daily News Tribune, Imam Eid said that the missing Quran "is what keeps me upset. . It is very difficult; I'm not able to pinpoint the reason for the vandalism."

Innermost Parts blogger Hyder Kazmi '12, who is also an executive member of the MSA, echoed Imam Eid's sentiment in a March 12 post on the Web site. Kazmi wrote, "The stealing of a copy of the Qur'an indicates something more than just a prank or some ultimately-harmless mischief. . That's two years of dedication to faith and education and introspection lost. Having really thought about it, this was more than just disrespectful, it was-yes, I'll say it-a hateful thing to do."

The Faculty Senate and the Student Union Senate passed resolutions this week condemning the vandalism. The Faculty Senate resolution reads, "Such actions simply have no place at Brandeis, and we urge those in charge to follow through on their promise of a full investigation into the incident."

In a March 11 e-mail to the MSA listserv, Neda Eid wrote that she is working on "Peaceful Response," an intiative that aims to address the "larger issue of hate on university campuses." She told the Justice that a new card access system will be installed next week in response to the vandalism.



-Alana Abramson and Harry Shipps contributed reporting.


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