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Disband or change
Islamic society of Rutgers University does disservice to Muslim community


November 14, 2005

Everyone in the U.S., at least on paper, is entitled to their own worldview, as long as it does not impinge upon the guaranteed freedoms of others. Thus, the recently elected Asher Hussain and his colleagues, of the Islamic Society of Rutgers University (ISRU), have the right to view Islam the way they do, regardless of the fact that many feel their views are hostile to women as well as Muslims of Shi'a and Sufi persuasion.

However, with the fraudulent election of Hussain and his ideological counterparts to the governing board, the majority of Muslim students at Rutgers University may find the atmosphere at ISRU becoming disturbingly intolerant, more so than it has already been. I have only been to one ISRU meeting (the 2005 officer election); suffice to say, however, that the observations I took from that meeting were motivation enough for me to speak out about them.

During the course of the evening, two things happened that should never happen at any election. First, I was shocked to see that women were neither nominated nor invited to nominate other women for the position of president. All of the other positions were split for a male and female representative, save this most important post, which was contested solely by men.

It appears that in the Islamic Society of Rutgers University, women cannot run for president. Most students at Rutgers, Muslim and non-Muslim, would balk at this intellectually unsound and chauvinistic rule. There is no valid justification, Qur'anic or otherwise, for why a woman cannot become president of a college club.

Moreover, this practice is against Rutgers University policy, which forbids discrimination on the basis of sex, among other factors. I ask: are Muslim women mentally incompetent? Perhaps internationally known intellectuals such as Shirin Ebadi and Leila Ahmed would suggest otherwise. Still worse is that ISRU, with its current misogynistic practice of excluding women from club leadership, is an official, monetarily funded Rutgers University club; yet the university has done nothing about this discrimination, despite the obvious gender bias written in the ISRU's proposed constitution:

"Seven members, 4 male and 3 female will serve on the board... Know that one of the brothers will be the president." This practice has been a source of widespread dissatisfaction for many in the Muslim community here at Rutgers, and should not be confused as representative of the "correct" interpretation of Islam.

Another disturbing occurrence took place in the form of blatant voting fraud. Although the female moderator said explicitly that she would be the only one collecting votes, several Muslim male alumni performed this task without permission on the side of the International Lounge (at Busch) occupied by males. Measures to prevent fraud (which took place at the previous April election, resulting in this mandatory re-election) such as ballot signing and an organized voting area were not implemented. I and several other eyewitnesses who voted saw multiple votes being cast on behalf of Asher Hussain and his colleagues, with unauthorized ISRU alumni collecting the votes.

After the night of the election, I looked at the proposed constitution of ISRU. In this document, I learned in addition to only allowing men to be president, the proposed constitution is not even representative for all Muslims. In the "Officer Statements" section, it is written "that Abu Bakr as-Siddeeq was the first rightly guided caliph", followed by the proceeding Sunni caliphs.

The majority of the historical figures mentioned in the proposed constitution are not even accepted as the legitimate successors of Muhammad by Shi'ite Muslims, which constitute approximately 10% of the world's Muslim population. In fact, most Shi'ites would consider it an insult to be forced to praise the Sunni caliphs and ignore the Shi'ite line of imams; this is analogous to making a Presbyterian swear allegiance to the Pope. ISRU clearly does not serve as an umbrella organization for Muslims at Rutgers, nor does it adhere to the ethical principles of Islam in ignoring voter fraud and marginalizing minority Muslims.

By explicitly barring women from running for president, making their organization inherently hostile to non-Sunnis, and tampering with election results, the people illegitimately running this organization do a disservice to Muslims at Rutgers, Muslims at large, and also Middle Eastern people generally by perpetuating existing media stereotypes that portray us as misogynistic, religiously intolerant, and incapable of legitimate self-governance. It is my opinion that ISRU needs to be disbanded and replaced by a truly inclusive Muslim student association.

For letters section
Maziar Shirazi

Maziar Shirazi




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