Rally for Peace takes place in MU Quad

Danielle Cervantes and friends handed out white armbands before a peace rally on the steps of the Memorial Union Quad. Cervantes said, as a Muslim student, she was a little afraid to return to classes Monday after a firebombing at a local mosque. Date; Dec. 2, 2010 (photo: Theresa Hogue)

About 150 Oregon State University students, faculty and staff gathered on the steps of the Memorial Union Quad today to send a message of peace out into the community. The last week has brought a lot of attention to the Corvallis community as word of an alleged bombing attempt in Portland and the subsequent fire bombing of a local mosque made news, and generated fear.

In response to these incidents, a number of student organizations joined together to take a stand and send out a message of peace and support. The Rally for Peace in the MU Quad took place at noon Dec. 2 on the steps of the Memorial Union. Speakers discussed recent events and the hope for peace, and participants will be encouraged to wear white armbands, which were distributed at the event.

Larry Roper, OSU Vice President for Student Affairs, said when he woke up Sunday morning and heard about the fire at the mosque, he was deeply pained by the news. He said during the rally that he was proud that OSU students chose a peace rally in response to the events, instead of responding with hate or anger.

“The decision to claim it as peace is a really profound one,” he said. “This is a positive act and it’s not just symbolic.”

Ali Alnakhli, an international student from Saudi Arabia and activity coordinator of the Saudi Arabian Student Association at OSU, said he’s felt that the OSU community is supportive of Muslim students. However, he said after he heard news of the attempted Portland bombing, he decided not to leave his Arabic scarf, a shemagh, in his car, so that it wouldn’t be recognized as being owned by an Arab.

Ali Alnakhli, an international student from Saudi Arabia and activity coordinator of the Saudi Arabian Student Association at Oregon State University, addressed a crowd during a peace rally in support of the Muslim student community. Date: Dec. 2, 2010 (photo: Theresa Hogue)

Before the rally, Alnakhil said that the OSU rally provided an opportunity for student groups to take a stand against violence.

“Violent actions only reflect an individual’s ignorance,” he said. “I think it is significant to deliver our love, caring, and support through the individual personal friendships that any of us could have with our Muslim brothers and sisters.”

He said it’s important to remember that the root of the word “Islam” is “salaam” which means peace and submission, submission to Allah “God” and peace to all humanity.

Omar Mohamed is a member of the Muslim Students Association, and said Wednesday that education is an important component in making the campus a safe place for all students.

“I think OSU is doing a good job,” Mohamed said. “The MSA is working with student
groups to educate campus about Islam and I think that is the biggest concern. If we can educate students about Islam and Muslims then we will have a better response.”

He said the candlelight vigil held Tuesday night at the mosque helped make him feel very supported by the community.

Student Fatimah Alramadhan, one of the event organizers, pointed out that Muslims come from many different backgrounds and cultures, and while tied together by a common faith, cannot be lumped together under one category. She said taking the time to get to know Muslim individuals is crucial for increasing understanding.

“Talk to Muslim people and learn from them,” she said. “We are always happy to answer questions. Or search and learn about the basics of Islam yourself.”

Executive Director of Diversity Programs for ASOSU Milikaleakona "Tonga" Hopoi gets emotional as she addresses a crowd in front of the Oregon State University Memorial Union during a peace rally. Hopoi said it was important to show visual support for peace on campus by wearing white armbands. Date: Dec. 2, 2010 (photo: Theresa Hogue)

Executive Director of Diversity Programs for ASOSU Milikaleakona “Tonga” Hopoi said it was important for non-Muslim students to help with the rally as well, and provide support to fellow students.

“In these crucial times, this is where we rise together as a community to show the country that Oregon State University does not condone hate,” she said before the rally.

Hopoi said the white armbands that were distributed at the rally are especially important, because they allow OSU students to display a visual symbol of support that indicates that OSU promotes a safe environment for all students. She also said it was a symbol of empowerment.

Before the rally she spoke about how the week’s events had made her feel.

“Hearing about the arson at the mosque, my heart just wept for the trust that OSU has now lost with many of the Muslim students that have come here for higher education,” Hopoi said. “I can’t change what has happened in our community but I can organize an opportunity for our fellow OSU students who want to support our Muslim students in this time of need.”

“In times like this we have the opportunity to remind ourselves and each other about who we want to be, and the kind of community we envision for our future,” said OSU Dean of Student Life Mamta Accapadi. “I am inspired by the outpouring of compassion and care that Oregon State University and the entire Corvallis community has offered to not only the Muslim community, but also the community at-large. “

“I am proud of our students for sending a clear message about the OSU community- their words say it best- together we stand for peace.”

The rally was organized by the Muslim Student Association, International Students of Oregon State University and the Associated Students of Oregon State University.

~ Theresa Hogue

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