The International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life and the Brandeis Chaplaincy recently announced the creation of , a fund to give the Brandeis community an opportunity to fight Islamophobia and promote Islamic values.
The Bahalim Student Fund was made possible by a donation from Brandeis alumnus Ammad Bahalim ’04. The fund is designed to “support student-led public events intended to combat Islamophobia and promote an understanding of Islam as a tradition of learning and critical thinking,” according to the description of the fund released by the Center.
The committee is looking for proposals that will have “a broad appeal to students on campus.” This could include “exciting formats” or “unexpected collaborations among groups of students, clubs and departments,” Leigh Swigart, the director of , said in an interview with the Justice, .. “It does not have to be a talk, it doesn’t have to be a film. It could be a comedian who uses an appealing and insightful way of getting at issues that are very important, or a music that is unexpected or a theater production.”
The fund offers up to $5,000 for the winning proposal, but a great proposal could justify a higher amount, according to Swigart.
Swigart also explained that the fund was the result of a one-time contribution, unless the donor chooses to contribute again in the future. According to Swigart, Bahalim is an alumnus with Pakistani heritage. Bahalim initially donated money to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, a philanthropic organization that fights inequity and is a partner and funder of the University. Bahalim also has connections with Marci McPhee, the Center’s previous director. In the end, Gates foundation multiplied the money, and partial control of the donation fell into the Center’s lap.
In discussion with the new Muslim chaplain, Muhammad Xhemali, the Center decided to open the fund up to not only Muslim students, but to anybody who would like to propose programming. Swigart thinks that the fund “will be a great way to get some excitement and collaboration across different sectors of campus and give students the opportunity to think imaginatively about how to use such a fund.”
In the same interview, Swigart said she assumes that Bahalim created the fund, because “he is responding to the rising climate of Islamophobia and thinking that having something on campus is a good place to start knowing that there are number of Muslim students on campus.” She explained that the language of the proposal is broad, giving the Center and the University considerable freedom in applying it to the community. She also said that the fund’s proposal language emphasizes how Islam exists in United States, not elsewhere.
Part of the grant that was given to the Gates Foundation will go to programs in different departments, but most of it will go to student projects. According to Swigart, there is value in offering students the financial freedom to independently hold projects, rather than giving it to a department, because “students are the best judges of what their peers will appreciate and how their peers want to learn about something unfamiliar.”
The Ethics Center is not trying to further its institutional goals by administering this fund, Swigart clarified. Rather, it is working to build and preserve the inter-religious and inter-communal coexistence at Brandeis. She said that in doing this the Center is administering the fund “to serve the campus [in] the best way possible.
What a farce. Critical thinking is not part of Islamic tradition, and if it means promoting Islam as a means of critical thinking, that can’t be done when at the first mention of anything critical everyone cries Islamophobia.
But this is in line with Brandeis’ support of sharia and Islamic supremacists.