Abdallah laments intolerance on both sides of political divide - Albuquerque Journal

Abdallah laments intolerance on both sides of political divide

The vitriolic political discourse and debate over speech in America, and on college campuses, is troubling to many.

It is especially so for Chaouki Abdallah, the interim president of the University of New Mexico, who came to the United States at age 19 to study and flee his home in Lebanon as it was plunging into conflict.

“There are a lot of lessons for this country” in what happened in Lebanon starting in the 1970s, he said during a recent interview.

“Maybe two years before the first shots were fired, political parties were starting to have a lot more influence on what was happening on college campuses and high schools. So people started initially arguing, they started dividing more along the lines of political affiliations connected to religious affiliations. Christians on the right, Muslims on the left, communists, etc.

“Then the arguments became fistfights, then people started to bring knives and brass knuckles. At my school, they had to walk right outside the door to fight.”

After the broader fighting started, he said, people separated. The Muslims would not come to the park on the Christian side, and the newspapers became very divided in their coverage. “If you read the paper on one side, you would think the other side are animals coming to rape and kill. If you read on the other side, it’s reversed,” he said.

It’s almost like what’s happening here, although Abdallah notes that the institutions in the United States, including police, “are much stronger here.”

“When I was growing up, I had a lot of friends. I didn’t think of people as part of religious sects or their political affiliations.”

“There were five to seven of us at school, a couple of Shiites, one Druze, one Muslim, a couple of Christians. … We were all good friends.”

“There were no more connections. I used to meet my Muslim friends to play basketball, and then we would go out to do something. We became very segregated. Some of those friends I didn’t see for 15 years.”

One of the controversies during his time as acting president involved demands by some groups to prohibit controversial conservative speaker Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking. Abdallah refused, even though campuses elsewhere had buckled in the face of threatened violence.

“People absolutely know the truth. They are intolerant of the other side’s point of view. They don’t listen to each other. On campuses, there is intolerance on both sides. The left-leaning think they own the truth, and vice versa, and people think the other side are crybabies and don’t deserve to have their own speakers.”

He said college campuses need to be a place where people can sit and communicate and argue, have a conversation even when they feel passionate about something.

“I do feel like we are starting to separate emotionally. There is no longer a common identity, like we were no longer ‘Lebanese.’ I see shades of that in our national discourse here.”

“We are becoming so entrenched,” he said. “If I disagree with you, not only are you wrong, you are evil.”

“Can’t we just say that even if we only agree on 20 percent, we just have philosophical differences?”

Home » News » Albuquerque News » Abdallah laments intolerance on both sides of political divide


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

1
West Side town house declared total loss after Friday ...
ABQnews Seeker
An under construction town house on ... An under construction town house on Albuquerque's West Side was declared a total loss after catching fire early Friday. Albuquerque Fire Rescue responded to ...
2
California man sentenced to 11½ years in 2019 fatal ...
ABQnews Seeker
A state district court judge sentenced ... A state district court judge sentenced a California man Friday to 11½ years in prison in the 2019 shooting death of Daniel Sias, 34, ...
3
APD seeking help identifying teen girls killed in suspicious ...
ABQnews Seeker
The Albuquerque Police Department is asking ... The Albuquerque Police Department is asking for help identifying two teenage girls who were killed in a suspicious crash early Thursday morning. The deadly ...
4
County appoints interim MDC chief
ABQnews Seeker
who was the director of administrative ... who was the director of administrative services at the lockup — will serve in the role while the county conducts a nationwide search, according ...
5
City sponsoring Friday night events for teens
ABQnews Seeker
TGIF! Friday Nights are back with ... TGIF! Friday Nights are back with a wide variety of free Friday evening recreational events for teens throughout the summer. Each event is geared ...
6
Project studies language in infants, toddlers
ABQnews Seeker
Youth Development Inc., a New-Mexico-based youth ... Youth Development Inc., a New-Mexico-based youth and family service organization, is partnering with LENA Grow and the University of New Mexico Evaluation Lab to ...
7
NM Supreme Court upholds 2021 release of alleged serial ...
ABQnews Seeker
DA's office laments state's 'broken revolving-door ... DA's office laments state's 'broken revolving-door system' for crime
8
Getting down to basics for needy children
ABQnews Seeker
Undies for Everyone helps supply underserved ... Undies for Everyone helps supply underserved children in APQ and across the country
9
Man charged in ABQ rape while awaiting trial in ...
ABQnews Seeker
All three cases against him stem ... All three cases against him stem from a six-month period in 2021