On the evening of Tuesday, March 29:
“#StopIslam” and “Stop the Rape of Europe” were chalked in the Diag, targeting Muslim identities at the University of Michigan. This incident was not singular, but joined a succession of other Islamophobic instances that continue to marginalize and create a hostile environment for Muslim students on campus. In the last three years, Muslim students have faced multiple attacks on their identity and safety:
When Students Allied for Freedom and Equality launched the #UMDivest movement and proposed a resolution to create a committee to investigate investments that allegedly facilitate the violation of Palestinian human rights, members of SAFE as well as their allies faced verbal attacks on social media and in person, and were unable to attend class without Department of Public Safety and Security escorts.
After a widely supported letter was written to the Center for Campus Involvement requesting the cancellation of an “American Sniper” screening, the University of Michigan temporarily canceled the screening of the film. Though many organizations representing non-Arab and non-Muslim students endorsed the letter, this proposition led to a disproportionate number of verbal, physical and social media attacks on students with Muslim and Arab backgrounds.
When is enough?
Time and time again, Muslim students have found the administration absent when its support was needed most. Muslim students feel unsafe, unwelcome and unheard in a space that is meant to be inclusive of all identities. In response to the Diag incident, University President Mark Schlissel released a statement emphasizing the importance of education and community-building, but has yet to provide actionable steps or key resources to address these issues.
We recognize the importance of free speech, but it is crucial to examine how our actions impact the ability of our fellow community members to have equal access to education. With the glacial pace of the administration to ensure the safety of its students, it is our responsibility to create an inclusive and welcoming atmosphere for our peers. It is unquestionable that differing perspectives create mutual understanding and a more holistic view of the world. However, abusing this right to free speech to espouse hatred is not an ideal anyone should aspire to.
As student leaders on this campus, we believe it is imperative to not only voice our solidarity with the Muslim community, but also to firmly oppose any attacks on one’s religion, race or ethnicity. To those who believe in spreading hate: We do not support you. This campus does not support you.
We will not sit passively as students face blatant discrimination in a community we are all meant to call home. And we are calling on the administration to do the same. Our administration needs to publicly announce visible and proactive measures to ensure the Muslim community feels supported and valued on this campus.
To our fellow Wolverines:
We cannot distance ourselves from this issue. When any marginalized group on our campus feels unsafe, we all suffer. We lose the value of our institution when our university’s reputation is tarnished with such blatant discrimination. We lose the incredible curiosity, brilliance and light that these students bring to our campus. We lose the spirit of Michigan, as the community we love and cherish becomes biased and selective.
We, as student leaders of the University of Michigan, call upon our peers to defend our campus against acts that propagate discrimination. As a student body, we must let the world know that we will not tolerate hate and hostility shrouded in the rhetoric of free speech. As the leaders and the best, we must unite.
To the Muslim community on campus:
We support you. And we thank you for continuing to show your strength as others expose their weaknesses. In this country, we enjoy the liberty to believe and practice whatever creed we wish. This freedom extends to people of all faith traditions. We repudiate the discriminatory messages that have been cast, and it is your right to freely be as you are. And those who oppose your free exercise of belief oppose us as well. We are one. This University is hoMe to all of us.
-Student Leaders of the University of Michigan
Organizations of the University of Michigan in Support:
AA-Flint Solidarity Network
Active Minds at the University of Michigan
Ahmadiyya Muslim Students Association
African Students Association
Alpha Chi Sigma
Alpha Gamma Delta-Alpha Beta Chapter
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., Epsilon Chapter
Angels on Call Philanthropic A Cappella
Art and Design Collective
Art in the Diag(D/ART)
Black Student Union
Black Undergraduate Medical Association
Black Volunteer Network
Chi Upsilon Sigma National Latin Sorority, Inc.
Coalition for Queer/Trans People of Color
Compuslive Lyres A Cappella
CSG Student Health & Safety Commission
Delta Theta Psi Sorority
Delta Tau Lambda Sorority, Inc.
Egyptian Student Association
Foundation for the International Medical Relief of Children (FIMRC)
Fortnight Literary Press
Global Scholars Program Advisory Council
Healthy Minds Student Leadership Coalition
Indian American Student Association
International Socialist Organization-University of Michigan/Ann Arbor
Jain Student Association
Jewish Voices for Peace
Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc.
LSA Student Government
Michigan Gospel Chorale
Muslim Students’ Association
The Oleander Review
Pakistani Student Association
Pi Alpha Phi, Fraternity Inc.
RC Student Union
Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC) Peer Education
Sexaul Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC) Networking, Publicity, and Activism
Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority, Inc.
Sigma Sigma Rho Sorority Incorporated
South Asian Awareness Network
Sikh Student Association
Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE)
Students for Choice
Undergraduate English Association
United Asian American Organizations (UAAO)
What the F
Yoni Ki Baat
Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc., Gamma Delta Chapter
Demario Longmire, current Michigan in Color Managing Editor, and Gaby Vasquez, former Managing Editor of Michigan in Color, along with other student leaders on campus helped to author this letter in support of solidarity with the Muslim community. Please e-mail Demario Longmire (firstname.lastname@example.org) to be added to this letter of solidarity.