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Last year, the [GWC] campus Alliance for Cultural Advancement club hosted an interfaith panel that included a Muslim speaker. "We noticed that when we opened it up for the students to ask questions, 99 percent of the questions were directed to the Muslim gentlemen," says Lorena Ortega, Program Associate of the Intercultural Program at Golden West College. "And they were not questions that were kind. They were born out of fear and our own ignorance."....Isn't this the sort of thing that our college should be hosting? Let's hope this event turns out well.—RB
A week after the San Bernardino massacre this December, Lyon [Melissa Lyon, Director of the Center for International and Intercultural Programs at GWC] called Ortega into her office and asked about putting on an event challenging Islamophobia. Ortega was game, only Lyon wanted to open it up to the broader community. "This is Orange County," Ortega recalls of her initial hesitation. "We're going to get annihilated." She eventually put her concerns aside and signed up for it all. Ortega contacted the local Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA) who suggested some knowledgeable speakers both Muslim and non-Muslim.
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"The overarching goal of this event is to not just to do what it says, challenging Islamophobia, but to bring the community together and open up dialogue," Ortega says. "We want to give everybody their place and space to talk about those fears and smash those fears. We don't have to be afraid of people of this faith." ….