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Jul 18, 2013 09:20 AM EDT

UC Appoints Muslim American Woman to Board; Jewish Groups Oppose Decision

Saifuddin currently serves as an ASUC senator in UC Berkeley
(Photo : UC, Berkeley) Saifuddin currently serves as an ASUC senator in UC Berkeley

The appointment of 21-year-old Sadia Saifuddin as the first practicing Muslim student member of the University of California's (UC) governing board, has not gone down well with some Jewish groups. About 25 UC regents unanimously approved the nomination of Saifuddin, a UC Berkeley student, to the board of regents on Wednesday, with one member, Richard Blum, abstaining from the vote.

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The Jewish groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, StandWithUs, conservative commentator David Horowitz and others, raised concerns against Saifuddin's nomination because of her political activities as a student government leader and a member of the Muslim Students Association at Berkeley.

Recently, Saifuddin, a social welfare major, co-sponsored a bill urging the university to divest from companies with economic ties to the Israeli military or Israeli settlements in the West Bank. She has also authored a resolution accusing a UC Santa Cruz lecturer who had linked the Muslim Students Association with terrorism 'for inciting racist and Islamophobic rhetoric.'

"In a year where campus climate issues have been the dominant theme of the UC system, a vote to appoint somebody who has served to polarize thousands and thousands of people in the campus community and beyond is shocking," said Rabbi Aron Hier of the Wiesenthal Center."An appropriate Muslim candidate could have ably served in this position. We don't believe Sadia is that appropriate candidate."

The groups collectively claim that all these activities do not qualify her to represent the students.

"Saifuddin's actions had 'marginalized many students.' She is prominent in the anti-Israel boycott campaign, an extremist movement that demonized the Jewish state, rejects dialogue, and fosters bigotry," said Roberta Seid, research-education director at StandWithUs.

Apart from the Jewish groups, other campus community praised the regent's decision.

Several current and former students hailed Saifuddin's leadership and tolerance qualities. Supporters have described her as an excellent student who cares about students of all faiths.

"Sadia is a remarkable young woman. She is committed to supporting all of UC students, and to this university and this country which she loves," said Regent Bonnie Reiss, who led the student regent selection committee.

Responding to the concerns raised by the Jewish groups', Reiss, a Jewish, said that the committee would not have chosen Saifuddin to be a student regent in the first place, if they knew she was anti-Semitic.

Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman of Council on American-Islamic Relations, was unhappy with the accusations put forth by the Jewish groups.

"Anytime an American Muslim rises to a prominent position, or starts to rise to prominence, that tiny minority of 'Islamophobes' in our society goes into action and seeks to marginalize and disenfranchise that individual," said.

Saifuddin is set to become the first Muslim student member of the 26-person board of regents for a year-long term starting, July 2014. She hopes to make the university system more accessible to students.

"I'm beyond blessed, and I'm very excited for this position," Saifuddin said.

Saifuddin asks her opponents to look at some of the other works too, besides her political activities.

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