I write in awareness that the ongoing, painful events in the Middle East are putting an enormous emotional burden on the faculty, staff and students of our program. I want them to know that AMAS is here for them as a supporter and that we are available to offer counsel in this difficult moment.
Concrete harms are being done to our communities on campus. A doxing truck has been observed driving around campus calling “terrorists” those who are critical of the prosecution of a bombing campaign on dense urban neighborhoods and denial of food, water and electricity to the civilian population, half of whom are children. Some students or student groups have displayed in public materials that identified as “Hamas” our campus chapter of Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE), a pro-Palestinian group. Faculty members have suffered verbal abuse and acts of intimidation, including threatened or near acts of violence.
The long history of anti-Arab bigotry in American culture, the equation of Palestinians with violence, and the hateful tide of Islamophobia have been revived as tropes by those dedicated to hate speech and to marginalizing and silencing Arab- and Muslim-American voices. These tropes ignore the centuries of the Arab and Muslim presence in North America, and the many important and positive contributions they have made. Contrary to what many assume, such tropes also enable bigotry toward other minorities, including Asian and Jewish Americans, a bigotry we forcefully condemn.
As a university with a universal mission, we cannot allow vigilante tactics to interfere with freedom of speech, inquiry, and debate. Our faculty, staff and students are diverse, and hate speech toward the ethnic groups with whom we are intellectually and culturally engaged is harmful whether it consists of Islamophobia or bigotry toward any other minority. It diminishes us all, whether we are of Muslim, Christian, Jewish, or any other religious or ethnic background. Harassment, hate speech and mischaracterizations must cease.
Program in Arab and Muslim American Studies
Department of American Culture, University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109