April 19, 2019 | 73° F

Islamophobic speech mandates evaluation

Assalamu alaikum — peace be upon you. 

The Qur’an states that “the servants of the Beneficent Allah are they who walk on the earth in humbleness, and when the ignorant address them, they say: Peace.”

In a recent article, “Rhetoric demands respect from all sides,” the Daily Targum states that “respect should be at the forefront of any conversation addressing someone with an opposing viewpoint.”

On this point, I would say that Islam is in agreement. The prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said that “the best of people are those with the most excellent character” and taught us that we should always deal with others with the best of manners.

Additionally, the Qur’an states that people should “bring [their] proof if [they] are truthful,” indicating that facts, reason and analytical thinking are welcome components of a discussion.  This is complemented by “truth stands clear from falsehood,” suggesting that facts-based exploration will make apparent what is truthful. This same process of obtaining information and using critical analysis, ultimately for the goal of seeking tested truths, is at the core of science, law and many other disciplines.  

Critical analysis of the facts is exactly what needs to be applied when looking at recent statements by Andrew Getraer.  How can we determine if something is “Islamophobic” if we do not look at his original words and question their content? 

In statements from Getraer such as “I know a few — a FEW — devout Muslims who are normal, not hateful people” and that 25 percent of Muslims, those who follow Islam’s commandments closely, “really want jihad [and to] kill infidels,” he aligns Muslims and Islam with hate and related qualities such as violent behavior. First of all, what are his sources for his “statistics?”  And this clearly shows ignorance about Islam, the religion of peaceful submission to one God.  Again, these statements are based on bigotry and lack of knowledge.  

The Daily Targum states that “not everyone can agree on what is hateful language ... There are those who believe that Getraer’s statements are true and those who do not.” I question the premise of these ideas. What if somebody believes the swastika is a symbol of love and German pride? Does that make it any less a symbol of anti-Semitism from the Nazi era? Differing opinions about a topic do not suddenly make them equally valid. 

When individuals try to be the voice of “unbiased” reporting, they in fact act as enablers helping to stifle condemnation of racism. How can someone help resolve an issue if they don’t even see that it exists? In fact, diplomatic cop-outs may sometimes be worse than “Islamophobia” itself because they allow hate to stand unchallenged. 

In a discussion of “freedom of speech,” it is essential to examine the track record of publishing within the Daily Targum.  

In response to an article last year, Getraer rightfully stated that “the entire piece is based on the repugnant, anti-Semitic assumption that there is something unfair and nefarious about Jews and money and that a visible Jewish presence on campus is alienating and suspicious.”

But I could easily replace a few of his words and make it relevant to the current topic (e.g. “based on the repugnant, [Islamophobic] assumption that there is something dangerous and nefarious about [Muslims related to] violence and that a visible [Muslim] presence on campus is alienating and suspicious.”)  

The Daily Targum responded with a full apology to Hillel and “sensitivity training” of its staff.  It is saddening to see that the Daily Targum’s standards are not universally applied toward other groups. Hateful comments and bigoted assumptions about Muslims are not “dialogue” and minorities should not have to ask to be treated with equal respect and importance.

What does it take to cross the line into “Islamophobia?” They say actions speak louder than words, but words help influence people’s actions. In recent years, “Islamophobic” propaganda and slander has contributed to a rising level of hate crimes against anyone perceived to be Muslim, and its role should not be undervalued in discussing the safety and inclusion of Rutgers students.  

I call upon individuals to educate themselves and engage in a thorough analysis of the facts.  Then “Islamophobic” remarks, like any other kind of xenophobic rhetoric, will seem all the more abhorrent and damaging to our Rutgers community. Malcolm X once said, “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” May our future be filled with mutual understanding, and most importantly, respect.

Simone Lovano is a Rutgers graduate student majoring in plant biology.

Simone Lovano

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