Organizers said a town hall meeting featuring a panel discussion to counter Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week was successful despite the event’s small turnout.
The town hall meeting, held in Columbian Square Monday night, was the first in a series of Peace Not Prejudice events scheduled to run until the end of this week. The panel discussion featured members of students from GW’s NAACP and the Muslim Students’ Association.
“In all honesty, the event was planned on rather short notice,” said Tarek Al-Hariri, a sophomore and organizer of Peace Not Prejudice. “We couldn’t really advertise . it was just short notice.”
During the event, attendees read testimonials about how they were discriminated against in the past.
Senior Jennifer Clewis said she felt prejudice is still prevalent.
“It’s upsetting to know that people who claim to be involved in the world and their communities do not pay attention,” she said. “(Prejudice) applies to all of us. We are a community.”
Clewis then attempted to attract the audience’s attention, but the constant clamor of dining and discussion overshadowed her speech and the words of the other panelists.
The participantsdid not seem discouraged by the atmosphere and continued to discuss prejudice they have witnessed personally.
Panelist Aaron Graff, education director for GW’s NAACP, said prejudice will not go away.
“Prejudice is something that’s been around for a while,” said Graff, a junior. “It consumes our daily lives. It’s not just a black-white issue.”
Deena Elmaghrabi, an organizer of Peace Not Prejudice and treasurer of the MSA, said prejudice affects everyone. Elmaghrabi, a Muslim, said she felt discriminated by the Young America’s Foundation’s use of Islamo-fascism to characterize the group’s awareness events for this week.
“Why do you say Islamo-fascist?” she questioned. “Why not terrorist?”
The panel and audience members also discussed instances where individuals made inaccurate assumptions about others.
Sophomore Najah Elbash described an assumption she had made at a past MSA event. Elbash said she did not realize Elmaghrabi was a Muslim when she first met her.
“I saw a white blonde girl, but I just dismissed her as someone’s roommate,” she said.
“The underlying factor (of prejudice) is fear,” senior Claire Zelie said. “In order to achieve a better understanding, you have to embrace your personal ignorance.”
After the event, organizers’ reactions were cautiously optimistic. Elmaghrabi said small attendance at the town hall’s panel discussion was not discouraging.
“We may not have had a large turnout, but it was successful,” she said
Graff said that the event was “positive.”
“It might not have been the biggest, but you have to start small,” he said.
Organizers of Peace Not Prejudice are planning to have at least three more events.
On Thursday night, Peace Not Prejudice will hold an interfaith prayer vigil after YAF’s David Horowitz event, and on Friday night, Allied in Pride will sponsor a transgender workshop, event organizers said. A student panel discussion scheduled to take place last Tuesday was cancelled and a replacement event will be held sometime next week, said Al-Hariri.
He explained that these events are “not meant for just one week.”
“I think the message can’t be conveyed through one event,” Al-Hariri said. “We will continue to promote peace.”