Ask Me Why: Navigating extremism

Friends revisit a painful debate from years past.

February 25, 2011

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(DePaul Conservative Alliance)
A flier used to promote Terrorism Awareness Week at DePaul in 2007.
Kate Murray, 24, and Hafsa Arain, 23, met their freshman year at DePaul University. Together they navigated dorm life and built a close friendship, starting when Murray planned a trek through the Loop to explore their new surroundings. “That was the first day I was like Katie and I are going to be really good friends,” Arain recalls. “She was so full of life.”
 
Their friendship was later tested by campus politics. Arain is a progressive Muslim who spent her college years invested in interfaith peace causes. Murray is a conservative Christian who joined the College Republicans and helped bring a series of lectures to campus under the umbrella of Terrorism Awareness Week. Murray says the events, which were sponsored by controversial conservative David Hororwitz, were supposed to explore individuals who “use religion and pervert it for political gain.” But Arain and others thought the series singled out Muslims and found it offensive.
 
The event proved polarizing on DePaul’s campus and detrimental to Murray and Arain’s friendship. When they met for this conversation they revisited what happened during that week and debriefed the emotional fallout it caused. It was the first time they had talked openly and honestly about what had transpired during their college years. Among the questions they discussed were: How do you talk about controversial topics in a respectful way? And can you put friendship before politics? You can hear an edited version of their conversation posted above.
 
Ask Me Why is produced in collaboration with the Illinois Humanities Council, and was made possible by a grant from The Boeing Company. If you and someone you know are interested in participating in this series, you can download the application form here.