The highly contentious Central Student Government elections turned personal yesterday when an e-mail became widely circulated that accused LSA sophomore Omar Hashwi, a current CSG vice presidential candidate, of being an anti-Semite and homophobe.
LSA sophomore Lauren Leibach sent the e-mail on Tuesday at about 10:30 p.m. to members of the Delta Phi Epsilon sorority, and the message was subsequently sent to other members of the Greek community, ultimately reaching the inboxes of Haswi and his running mate, Business junior Manish Parikh.
“Omar is not only publicly anti-Israel, he is also openly homophobic,” Leibach wrote. “Beyond the fact that someone like him could be involved in making important decisions on campus, it is scary to think what he could do with his power.”
Leibach — who identified herself as a member of the American Movement for Israel, a part of Hillel — continued, discussing what she sees as the implications of an election victory by Hashwi and Parikh, who are both running as independents.
“Omar and Manish have a lot of followers. It is frightening that they may have a good chance in winning, and it is because they are very strategic and good at what they do,” Leibach wrote. “Not many people are aware of this anti-Israel situation … but now you are.”
Hashwi said the claims are untrue and added that he is supportive of students of all religions and sexual orientations.
“I am a Muslim American. However, I respect all religions,” Hashwi said. “Manish doesn’t have a religion … we respect all religions equally and we do not discriminate against any religion or any sexual orientation.”
Hashwi added that on Friday, he attended Juma’a Shabbat, a collaborative event for Jewish and Muslim students. He added that while he was unable to attend the Muslim Juma’a prayers, he still went to the University of Michigan Hillel for Shabbat services.
“These claims are really absurd,” Hashwi said. “(Anyone) who knows me as a person would easily demolish these claims that I’m homophobic or anti-Semitic.”
In a statement to The Michigan Daily, Leibach wrote that she did not intend to “offend or insult anyone” by sending the e-mail.
“I am deeply sorry if my (e-mail) resulted in anyone’s hurt feelings or caused any personal harm,” she wrote.
In an e-mail interview last night, LSA junior David Rosenwein, the president of the University Hillel’s governing board, wrote that the opinions Leibach expressed in the e-mail did not reflect Hillel’s position.
“Hillel’s position on CSG elections, as in all student government elections, is to encourage student participation,” Rosenwein wrote. “The e-mail sent out was one individual’s personal opinion and was written and sent without knowledge or consent from Hillel’s Governing Board.”
While three other CSG presidential candidates discussed their campaign platforms at the Interfraternity Council meeting last night, Parikh spoke to the IFC to reaffirm his and his running mate’s commitment to the University’s Jewish community and all communities on campus.
“I stand here before you today, sadly, not to talk to about my platform,” Parikh said. “But I am forced to come here today to speak about my view on secularism and on religion in light of a letter and e-mail that is being circulated amongst various institutions and organizations on campus.”
Parikh emphasized his devotion to Jewish students and to all students on campus.
“I have nothing but love for every member of the Jewish community, for the people of Israel, and for every Wolverine on campus,” Parikh said. “As long as you have an Mcard in your pocket and you do not support Michigan State, I love you.”
He also addressed the issue of the University investing in companies with ties to Israel, a topic that came up in the vice presidential debate.
“Me and my vice president have nothing to do and would never have anything to do with divestment from Israel,” Parikh said.
One aim of Parikh and Hashwi’s platform, as stated on their Facebook page, is to encourage the University to invest responsibly. The platform says the University “should invest in socially responsible companies,” such as businesses that promote science, technology and the entrepreneurial endeavors of students.
Public Policy junior Kevin Mersol-Barg, the presidential candidate for OurMichigan, said that rather than making a decision based on Leibach’s e-mail, students should focus on the candidates’ platforms.
“This is making a personal attack against a particular candidate,” Mersol-Barg said. “Ultimately, e-mails like this are not healthy nor conducive to the type of campaign atmosphere we want to see.”