Hate speech should not be tolerated at Rutgers
Earlier this week, alternet.org published a conversation between Ido Shapiro and Rutgers Hillel’s executive director, Andrew Getraer, of which the latter’s key points include rather shocking claims against Islam and Muslims both here at Rutgers and worldwide. The director’s particular remarks as well as his resulting statement in wake of the leaked conversation may be viewed online. The summary? The entire Islamic faith is “a problem,” 25 percent of Muslims (or 375 million) are terrorists, “Islamist” Palestine is an oppressive threat, most of Rutgers’ Muslims are terrorist sympathizers, etc. According to Getraer, he was merely advocating for our safety and well being against strains of radical belief, apparently championing himself as a defender of Islam and Muslims.
The dialogue itself however, which reeked of overt bigotry, hatred and imperialist rhetoric, is not an unprecedented display of the growing Islamophobia and anti-Muslim prejudicial sentiment. What instead needs to be examined first is an academic institution’s perspective on free speech, more specifically, the exorbitantly unfair hypocrisy that most public universities now display. Educated Americans pride themselves on scholarly discussion, welcoming a huge variety of stances underlying a given topic, so long as it doesn’t gravitate toward Islam or Muslims.
Rutgers is clearly no exception to the trend — but let’s allow Getraer our sincere benefit of the doubt. Whether his views represent Rutgers Hillel is truly not the real concern at hand. General ignorance is the disease, while Islamophobia is only the symptom. The reluctance academic institutions show in solving such issues catalyzes the matter on widespread levels. How so? When excessively xenophobic government administrations and media dominate the intellectual paradigm, American citizens don’t leave unharmed as imperialism seeps into our own culture. Public universities reflect the current atmosphere explicitly and implicitly. Zealous jingoism is encouraged, Islam and Muslims ought to willingly withstand blatant and illogical tyranny, and yet remotely mentioning a scholarly criticism of Israel as a political entity is inundated with restrictions. Our cultures of education are at stake, and effectively, the students are too.
Getraer may be a product of his environment, but Rutgers can choose to rise above his failures. Meaning, Rutgers must confront the reality of deceptive free-speech standards and should reintegrate itself into the world of civic responsibility, cultivating an environment of honest, prudent dialogue. Inviting a sell-out Islamophobe such as Dr. Qanta Ahmed to a Hillel event cannot pass as bridging the gap between Jews and Muslims, but open critique among scholars will. Getraer should know there are no terrorist sympathizers on campus, only people like him who abuse free expression and are ignorant of hypocrisy. Yes, Islam and Muslims openly welcome educational discussions — but never fear-mongering racism. As a person in a position of leadership at Rutgers, Getraer shames the students with his senseless rant. Nonetheless, he won’t find his victims dropping to his level of indecency in retaliation. Islam has nothing to be sorry for.
Muhammad Raza is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in biological sciences.