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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Brandeis community forms peace vigil to unite against MSA vandalism

Published: March 19, 2010
Section: News

Students, administrators and the Chaplaincy held a peace vigil at the Peace Circle March 12 following the vandalism and theft at the the Muslim Student Association (MSA) lounge March 5.

Under a “Brandeis Peace Vigil” sign, nearly 100 people overcrowded the Circle to share a moment of silence and listen to thoughts on how to respond to the March 5 break-in.

“We need to show we are here, we will continue to work together and take Brandeis as a symbol of love, peace and cooperation,” Imam Talal Eid, the Muslim chaplain, said.

Students, joined by University President Jehuda Reinharz, Dean of Student Life Rick Sawyer, Director of Public Safety Ed Callahan and Senior Vice President for Communications and External Affairs Andrew Gully, expressed gratitude towards those who came to the vigil.

Sahar Massachi ’11, who started a petition against the vandalism, which he called, “a love letter from the community,” handed a piece of the letter to everyone at the vigil so that each person could hand their piece to Eid in a sign of support.

MSA President Neda Eid ’11, who is also the daughter of the imam, said she was very pleased with the turnout at the vigil.

“I think it was a great way to include the campus with a means to react,” Eid said in an interview with The Hoot.

Gully emphasized the need for students to keep discussing their thoughts about the incident. “I think the most important part of going forward in any incident like this is just [to] keep talking,” Gully said in an interview with The Hoot.

Beth Bowman, one of the coordinators of the vigil, told the gathered people, “Thanks for coming, when I look at this amazing crowd, it is so moving. This spirit is the one that defines Brandeis, not the March 5 vandalism.”

Each week, students and members of the Chaplaincy gather around the Peace Circle across from Goldfarb Library. Normally about three to ten people show up, according to Protestant Chaplain Alexander Levering Kern.

“We’ve been gathering here since Jan. 2007 to send a sign that Brandeis cares for peace in this world and so we can reach a deeper understanding of our religion and our world,” Kern said.

Following the moment of silence, and after speeches about the vandalism, everyone was invited to join the Chaplaincy in prayer before a lunch.

Neda Eid said that she is planning a program called Peaceful Response, and part of the program will give students the opportunity to write their thoughts about the recent vandalism on large paper posted around campus.

Explaining that even if the March 5 vandalism was an isolated incident, Neda Eid hopes that it will foster discussions about hate and religious discrimination outside of Brandeis.

“We can have pride in Brandeis, but the fact is, we’re not living here for the rest of our life,” she said. “Hate is everywhere and we’re dealing with it and we have to prepare.”

According to Neda Eid, on the bulletin board for Democrats for America in Usdan Student Center, someone posted a page saying, “Oh, no. A hate crime—make a Facebook event about it.”

The page was likely referencing the Facebook event created last week, asking students to join against hate and stand for love.

On the Facebook page, some students engaged in a debate about religious tolerance and one student posted an anti-Semitic comment.

Talal Eid strongly denounced any blame directed towards Jewish students.

“The sacredness of the Koran is in our hearts, not on pages … the media refers to the cause of this vandalism as if there is tension between Jews and Muslims here but I say there is no tension,” he said.

“We must condemn the act, not the person, because this person is most likely part of the Brandeis family and we will not give up any member of the Brandeis family,” Talal Eid said.

Callahan asked anyone with more information about the vandalism to contact Public Safety. There were no new updates in the investigation, which is “still ongoing” according to Gully.