On September 30, 2015, the Jewish student organization, Hillel, and the Muslim Student Association came together to celebrate their holy days, the Jewish Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashana and the Muslim Eid-ul-Adha, which happened almost at about the same time in this year.
I was invited by my classmate in Arabic 203, Wassem Ali, to attend the event. Honestly, I went for the food. I love Middle Eastern cuisine. Although I am not especially religious, I did “grow up as a Christian.” In any event, I have always been fascinated by the history and culture of peoples all over the world.
I took Wassem’s warm invitation to heart and showed up in time to participate in the beginning. But I had to run to two other free hour events. However, I was there long enough to enjoy a brief repast and to be amazed at the fact of two groups of people, unfortunately “known” for a mutual animosity, come together in peace and harmony. It gave me a renewed hope for the future of the human race.
I was even more impressed by Wassem when he addressed the gathering. I had no idea that he was the president of the MSA. He speech touched me. I asked him for a copy of it, below, to put in this article.
Muslim Student Association President Wassem Ali’s Speech:
Interfaith feast – Wassem Ali
Assalamu Alaikum to my fellow MSA members, Shalom to the Hillel members, hello and welcome to the students of neither club that found out about the free food and decided to come. Thank you all for joining us here today and a special thanks to everyone that helped put this together. The Queens College Hillel and MSA are two very active clubs, so it’s particularly hard to organize cosponsored events.
I am Wassem Ali, the President of the Muslim Students Association (MSA). I was just reminded earlier today to give a speech, so I apologize for not preparing anything inspiring that’ll touch our hearts and have us all jumping out of our seats to hug each other joyfully. I’d just like to talk about why I’m so fond of these interfaith events, and why I stress their importance.
Last year was my first year of college, and when I walked into the second floor of the Student Union for the first time last year, I was shocked to see the MSA and Hillel right next door to each other. I was curious as to how that’s possible. Isn’t there fighting? Arguing? How can the school let this happen?
Now, why did I think that way? Why was it hard for me to believe we can all get long? That we can all coexist?
The media. The media deceived me. Every time I turned on the television, every time I got on the Internet, my eyes were flooded with images and hateful speech that depicted nothing but hate between our religions. I was never shown how similar our religions are, and how easily we can coexist.
So I began the year with the wrong mindset. Every time I visited the MSA, I was on my toes, muscles were tense, cautious of my surroundings; I did not want to be a victim of any hate crimes.
A few months later, I found myself spending my free time playing table tennis with a few guys from the Hillel. I’d study for my economics exams with two Jewish girls from my class. I’d be greeted with warm smiles on campus from people I once believed were my enemies. I’m not just saying this to promote the interfaith event.
For the few of you in the Hillel that know me, you’ve seen my face light up when I see you. These were very loving people I was fortunate enough to meet, and they taught me how easily peace can be attained. I realized our religions preach peace.
Any religion that does not preach peace is not from God. We just need internalize that and educated our selves on other religions. So I ask you all today, please rid yourselves of what the social media has taught you to believe, look at one another like human beings, and really put in the effort to learn about each other.
I hope these interfaith events continue to grow and continue to strengthen the relationship between us all. I hope the Muslims and Jews in Queens College become a model for peace in other colleges and nations.
Links to the event: