UC Board of Regents confirm first Muslim student to board

Sadia Saifuddin walks to take her chair after being confirmed during a University of California Board of Regents meeting Wednesday, July 17, 2013 in San Francisco. The University of California's governing board confirmed the first practicing Muslim student member to the board on Wednesday, despite opposition from some Jewish groups. UC regents voted in favor of UC Berkeley student Sadia Saifuddin's nomination. One regent, Richard Blum, abstained from the vote. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
July 17, 2013 6:30:58 PM PDT
The University of California regents made history again. On Wednesday they appointed the first Muslim-American to represent all UC students. This comes one day before a vote to confirm former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano as the first woman to ever lead the UC system.

The student's appointment, however, is controversial; especially to some in the Jewish community.

Sadia Saifuddin sat quietly in her chair as others talked about her.

"Sadia's actions have polarized thousands upon thousands on the campus community and beyond," said Rabbi Aron Hier with the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

"A woman of thoughtfulness, a woman of reasonableness, a woman of open mindedness," former UC student regent Jonathan Stein said.

The 21-year-old UC Berkeley student made headlines because she will be the first practicing Muslim to serve as student regent of the UC system.

She's controversial because of the issues she has supported prior to that appointment.

Saifuddin had called on UC to boycott all companies affiliated with the Israeli military or Israeli settlements on the West Bank.

UC regents voted unanimously in favor of the UC Berkeley student's nomination. Regent Richard Blum, however, said he could not vote for her. He abstained.

"But if you want to list countries that have human rights issues that we ought to not trade with, you have probably 100 countries that are worse than Israel," Blum said.

Blum, who is married to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., promised to work with Saifuddin.

On the divestment issue, Saifuddin said, "While I may have my own personal opinions about that situation, but those have nothing to do with my work as a student regent."

What worries some is the divisiveness her actions have created. In March she supported a resolution condemning a so-called Islamophobic hate speech delivered at UC Santa Cruz. Saifuddin said it went beyond the definition of free expression.

The committee which selected her is comprised of four regents. Two of them are Jewish.

"The committee would not have selected Sadia to be a student regent if we thought she was anti-Semitic," UC regent Bonnie Reiss said.

Saifuddin announced she will now focus on issues that concern all students.

"Over the next two years I plan on working on a lot of things that all students are united around because I think that is the most effective form of leadership," she said.

Saifuddin says she looks forward to working closely with incoming UC President Janet Napolitano, who is expected to be confirmed on Thursday.


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