It has been clear through President Trump’s campaign rhetoric, his nominations and appointees for Cabinet positions, and his proposed policies like the Muslim ban, that Muslims and those perceived as Muslims are not welcome in this country. White supremacy is rooted in US history and institutions. This coupled with state-sponsored Islamophobia has resulted in a dangerous environment in which attacks against Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim are on the rise.
As a Muslim-American student studying in the country’s capital, it pains me deeply to hear this rhetoric surrounding Islam. It hurts me to hear the man who I must call my president go directly after my identity and the livelihood of my community. My religion that has made me who I am and drives my inner force is under attack—the faith that has instilled in me the virtues of compassion, service, and justice is being compromised. It is emotionally exhausting to wake up every morning and witness Islamophobia—a vicious challenge to my being—spreading like wildfire.
Institutions like Georgetown University play an important role in combating Islamophobia, especially in an increasingly heated political climate. Being a respected institution in the global sphere, Georgetown has the responsibility to denounce the Islamophobia of the current administration and provide a safe haven for Muslim and international students who are affected by its policy changes and hate speech. To my dismay, the Georgetown University College Republicans, the Georgetown Bipartisan Coalition, and the Georgetown Review are breaking from this responsibility of the university community to combat Islamophobia.
On Tuesday, Feb. 28, the College Republicans are providing Nonie Darwish a platform to spew her hateful and violent views on Islam in an event titled, “Women in Sharia: A conversation with Nonie Darwish.” Darwish has no academic credentials on this topic. She has endorsed violence against the religion when she stated “Islam should be conquered, defeated, and annihilated.” The Georgetown College Republicans put out a statement against Trump’s Muslim Ban in which they said, “We must not allow our fight against radicalism to be co-opted by those who would portray the religion of Islam to be our enemy.” Nonie Darwish does just that and is not hesitant in stating that the enemy of the West is Islam itself. Darwish is also a fellow with the American Freedom Defense Initiative, who the Southern Poverty Law Center has listed as a hate group.
On Wednesday, March 1, the Georgetown Bi-Partisan Coalition and the Georgetown Review are providing a similar platform to Asra Nomani, who many know as the Muslim immigrant woman who voted for Trump. However, she is not just any Trump supporter who is female, Muslim, and an immigrant. She has a long history of statements and actions that have perpetuated the same Islamophobia as Darwish and Trump’s administration. Nomani argued for the religious and racial profiling of Muslims saying, “There is one common denominator defining those who’ve got their eyes trained on U.S. targets: MANY of them are Muslim …”
123 individuals have been killed as a result of American Muslim extremists since 9/11. In that same time span, over 240,000 Americans have been killed as a result of gun violence. Americans are just as likely to be killed by their televisions or their furniture every year. An American is also more likely to be killed by a toddler than a terrorist. Most frighteningly, Americans are more likely to be killed because they are Muslim, than by a Muslim. The fear that is incited is objectively indefensible, unless we’re going to be afraid of furniture and toddlers too. Nevertheless, Nomani was, as the American Civil Liberties Union describes, a proponent of the “religious profiling and suspicionless surveillance of Muslims” that resulted in violating the civil rights of Muslim Americans and provided zero leads on zero terror cases. She also protested President Barack Obama’s mosque visit, the first visit that President Obama made to a mosque during his administration, calling it “tacit acceptance of a form of gender apartheid.” Painting herself as a Muslim reformer who advocates for human rights, she projects, just as Darwish, that Islam itself is the problem.
My critique of these speakers is not an effort to silence free speech. Muslim communities recognize the importance of free speech in all situations. However, these speakers are not exercising free speech, they are exercising hate speech, a speech of the kind that no organization, especially at Georgetown, should endorse or give a platform to. It is also not enough to make a statement dissociating with the views of these speakers. How are we going to stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters, which these groups at Georgetown claim to do, by emboldening individuals who frankly spread false information and promote hatred and even in some cases, incite violence? The invitation to these speakers should be rescinded by these groups because their hate speech is not in line with the Jesuit values of Georgetown and is not constructive. These individuals allow no space for dialogue and are unyielding in their views that the religion of Islam is a problem. Their being invited to speak on this campus is unequivocally irresponsible, rationally unjustifiable and dangerous to the safety of the already-vulnerable Muslim community I belong to—a community that is a backbone to this institution and our country.
Aly is a sophomore in the SFS. The Bridge Initiative will be organizing an event called “Standing Together: A Conversation on Islamophobia & Anti-Semitism with Rabbi Rachel Gartner and Imam Yahya Hendi” on Wednesday, March 1 at 7:00pm in Reiss 112. I recommend that the Georgetown community attend this event in large numbers to show their support for better understanding the intersections of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. The Bridge Initiative will also be hosting an event on Tuesday, February 28 at 7:00pm. More details to come.