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Addressing the Current Moment

Online educational events on Islamophobia and Antisemitism are latest in “Tritons Belong” series

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As university campuses across the country continue to be deeply impacted by the Israel-Hamas war, UC San Diego is encouraging members of the Triton community to engage in conversation, dialogue and connections with its Principles of Community in mind.

In response to concerns that arose following the deadly Hamas attack on Israel Oct. 7, 2023, UC San Diego’s Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion created the Tritons Belong initiative to engage the campus community in times when many are struggling with a significant issue. The initial Tritons Belong efforts focus on the theme of “Understanding and Compassion in Challenging Times,” and include a series of events aimed at increasing understanding and compassion across campus.

“UC San Diego stands in solidarity against Antisemitism and all forms of prejudice,” said Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “With this in mind, I encourage everyone to participate in our Tritons Belong series to learn more about civic engagement on campus, combating discrimination and helpful strategies for productive and respectful dialogue. Together, we will continue to challenge biases and promote belonging for all members of our inclusive Triton community.”

The latest events in this series took place April 17 when members of the campus community were invited to virtually attend two separate online educational events on Islamophobia and Antisemitism.

"In launching this series, and with our recent educational events, we affirm our commitment to dismantling Antisemitism and Islamophobia through knowledge, empathy and active allyship,” said Becky R. Petitt, vice chancellor for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. “Let us stand together, united in our resolve to create a campus—and a world—where we are all respected and treated with compassion."

Islamophobia – Addressing the Current Moment

The first event of the day was designed to educate members of the campus community about Islamophobia, which facilitator Maha Elgenaidi, founder and executive director of Islamic Networks Group, defined as “a framework, belief system or ideology by which we view and portray Islam and Muslims in society, not only in the United States but also around the world.” She shared that this framing of Islam often consists of negative narratives, which may lead to prejudicial attitudes or bias toward Muslims and can result in discriminatory practices or hate incidents.

During her talk, Elgenaidi described what she says are the three dominant Islamophobic tropes: that Islam is culturally incompatible with Western society; that Islam is a religion of violence; and that Islam is monolithic. She dispelled these myths, provided a history of the roots of discrimination against Muslims and shared examples of systemic Islamophobia, explaining that over centuries, these things lead to implicit bias. Lastly, she challenged attendees to address their own biases and challenge their assumptions.

“Implicit bias doesn’t come out of nowhere. It comes out of these consistent portrayals of Muslims in negative terms, and this leads to the adoption of stereotypes that actually impact one’s subconscious beliefs and will often override professed values, as demonstrated by various studies,” said Elgenaidi. “This means that even if a person doesn’t believe that they are biased or racist, their subconscious beliefs will cause them to behave in biased or racist ways—and this is especially true in times of fear or stress.”

Antisemitism – Addressing the Current Moment

During this educational event, Maha Elgenaidi of Islamic Networks Group shared insights about Islamophobia and its roots.

In the afternoon, Vlad Khaykin, national director of programs on Antisemitism at the Anti-Defamation League, facilitated a discussion on Antisemitism, which he explained is the marginalization and/or oppression of people who are Jewish or perceived to be Jewish often based on stereotypes, myths and disinformation about Jewish people and culture, Judaism, Zionism or Israel. He explained that Jews are not one race, but rather a multicultural community, and that identifying as Jewish is not strictly based on religious belief.

Antisemitism, Khaykin said, is more than a social prejudice, adding that modern Antisemitism often manifests in the form of conspiracy theories. Providing an overview of myths and stereotypes and discussing the drivers of Antisemitism and its enduring history and lethality, Khaykin explored concepts of Antisemitism across the ideological spectrum on both the left and right. In closing, he encouraged participants to continue to learn and educate themselves in order to better understand recent events.

“Jews and Muslims are not enemies, and caring about Antisemitism and caring about Islamophobia are not, in fact, mutually exclusive,” said Khaykin. “In fact, Antisemitism and Islamophobia are mutually reinforcing systems of oppression, and therefore we have to care about all of these things and understand how they fit together—how they feed off of and foment one another."

During this educational event, Vlad Khaykin of the Anti-Defamation League facilitated a discussion on Antisemitism and its enduring history.

Additional Events and Resources

In addition to these two recent events, those interested can also access two additional online educational events from the series on the Tritons Belong website. On Feb. 28, “Free Speech in Times of Conflict,” was facilitated by Emerson Sykes, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union and adjunct professor of law at New York University, who shared his expertise around free speech within the context of higher education. “Dialoguing Across Differences in Times of Conflict,” facilitated by trainers from the National Conflict Resolution Center, was held Feb. 22 and explored how to have difficult, yet respectful and even productive, conversations with people who hold views different from our own.

Series organizers are planning three additional events next month and encourage all members of the campus community to take the time to attend.

On May 9, “Peacemaking in Higher Education,” facilitated by Karen Biestman, assistant vice chancellor for student equity and inclusion, will explore peacemaking, which holds its roots in Indigenous frameworks of conflict resolution that are designed to address harm and restore balance within the community. It is a practice grounded in place-based core values that include respect, empathy, forgiveness and more. Together, these values bring impacted community members together to work through challenging conversations and issues toward a place of intentional listening, equity of voices, mutual understanding and healing. Interested participants can register now to attend this virtual event.

Then, on May 21, Marianne Frapwell, director of UC San Diego’s CARE Office, Campus Advocacy, Resources and Education at the Sexual Assault Resource Center (CARE at SARC), will facilitate another online educational event that explores concepts of trauma informed care and their implications for the current moment. Registration is now open for this event.

Also on May 21, all Tritons are invited to The Longest Table, a multicultural meal at a 300- foot-long table that will span the length of Library Walk, with the goal of building community and a sense of belonging. The table will be dressed with a tablecloth-meets-art project, created by members of the campus community in the weeks leading up to the event through twice-a-week workshops facilitated by the Craft Center.

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