COMMENTARY: U. organizations are against marginalization of Muslims

On March 1, the front page of The Daily Targum featured an article pointing out the similarities between a Rutgers Conservative Union flyer and one circulated by the American Vanguard, a white supremacy group. Two weeks ago, American Vanguard posted a flyer that read “Imagine A Muslim Free America” on the front of the Paul Robeson Cultural Center on Busch campus. The article features a quote from Dylan Marek, a constituent of the RCU, who claims that the writing on the flyer was his own, despite the fact that American Vanguard posted an almost identical version more than two months prior to Marek’s own advocacy.

While organizations like the Rutgers Conservative Union have the right to propagate anti-intellectualist ideals, the purpose for doing so treads the fine line between expression and the provocation of hateful rhetoric. American Vanguard’s most recent article, titled “A Muslim Free America” published on Feb. 18 of this year claims, “Muslims do not belong in white nations and their culture has no right at all to form ungovernable cells within our society which must be treated as occupied zones.” The inherent naiveté with which the piece is written dismisses over 400 years of recorded Muslim presence in America. Acting upon it would mean the dangerous and methodological whitewashing of American history.

Toby Jones, director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, comments, “The unfortunate reality, in a time of political polarization, is that those who target Muslims under the cloak of free speech have little interest in the truth or protecting cherished freedoms. Rather, it is more likely that theirs are dangerous and callous provocations framed in ways that their proponents almost certainly know are not supported by evidence.” Supporting the intention to incite hate and division in a toxic political environment can lead to targeted attacks on the 8,000 Muslim students on campus, and is irresponsible and discriminatory. What is mere rhetoric for one individual or group translates into acts of violence for another. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual census, the number of anti-Muslim hate groups almost tripled during this past year alonecoinciding with a 67 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2016. Public expression that thrives off of hate speech should be condemned by an institution that seeks to uphold the safety of its students.

Marek’s misguided comments about the tenets of Islam are blatantly false. They exhibit a lack of exposure to the most basic Islamic theology. If Marek had perhaps taken the time to only Google these so-called “tenets of Islam,” he would have found his understanding to be a gross misconception of the religion — a common result of the uninquisitive and disinterested narrative many white elitist individuals and groups have imbibed about politics in a post 9/11 America. He would have found the Qur’an to state that “there is no compulsion in religion” (2:256) and that “ … whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption (done) in the land — it is as if he had slain mankind entirely” (5:32), that the forceful wearing of the burka is condemned and that the oldest existing university was founded by a Muslim woman.

Islamic pillars of truth have always supported and aligned with American values. However, we are not mandated nor feel the need to prove our validity as adherents to Islam and as citizens of this nation. Muslims in this country have already done so. We are physicists, authors, physicians, scholars, musicians, entrepreneurs and educators. We are contributors. We see benefit in diversity. Can any kind of supremacist group accomplish the simple task of asking themselves the same question that they so proudly parade around — can your beliefs, ones that flaunt anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism and fascism, be compatible with American values that have birthed gender, race and religious equality in this nation?

We will continue to unapologetically practice our beliefs and we will continue to function as vocal members of society. Posters and rhetoric that spew racism and prejudice will never intimidate us. They can certainly try to undermine us, but we know that the values of religious tolerance and diversity will continue to prevail.

Muslim Student Association, Ahlul-Bayt Student Association, Center for Islamic Life at Rutgers University, Jumu’ah & Prayer Space, Muslim Public Relations Council, Pakistani Student Association, Bengali Student Association, RU Progressive, UndocuRutgers, puBLACations, Douglass Governing Council, Sigma Lambda Gamma, Black Lives Matter, Afghan Student Association, LGBTQQIA People of Color Organization, Asian Student Council, Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund, Educational Opportunity Program Student Association, West Indian Student Organization, Thaakat Foundation, Malaysian Student Association, Graduate Muslim Student Association, Students for Justice in Palestine, Paul Robeson Living Learning Community, Omega Phi Beta Sorority

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