From the Field

Muslim activist: UNC coalition won’t let hate prevail

Kalia Abiade • May 01, 2015
Photo courtesy of Manzoor Cheema, founder of Muslims for Social Justice.

Last month, David Horowitz spoke at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and told his audience of students, faculty and community members that their Muslim peers on campus were part of efforts to kill Jews. He talked a lot about the conflict between Israel and Palestine, but his comments have consequences more far-reaching.

“A broad movement that challenges all forms of oppression is essential to ending Islamophobia.”

Horowitz is often labeled a conservative, but that description doesn’t tell the whole story. Horowitz is an avid anti-Muslim activist. He is the editor of FrontPage Magazine, which publishes daily anti-Muslim rants from a cache of writers, including Robert Spencer. He hosts “Restoration Weekend” events that bring together some of the biggest names in anti-Muslim bigotry. He also claims that there is a trend of “leftist indoctrination” in academia, and thus spends much of his time targeting Muslims at U.S. colleges and university. During his visit to Chapel Hill, he did not hold back.

“The goal of SJP [Students for Justice in Palestine], the MSA [Muslim Student Association] and the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Fatah, and Iran and Hezbollah is to kill the Jews, to push them into the sea,” he told the audience.

This type of fearmongering is reckless in any situation, but its danger is underscored by the fact that Horowitz’s speech came only two months after three Muslim students were murdered near campus. It’s not hard to imagine that many students, Muslim or not, are still in a state of shock and even fear after the attacks.

Horowitz’s visit and words only add to that trauma.

Making matters worse, the UNC College Republicans, the group who invited Horowitz, dismissed that pain and issued a statement saying they “wholeheartedly believe that UNC is a safe place for all students and call into question any claims that there are legitimate threats to the safety of students on the basis of color, creed, or ethnicity on UNC’s campus.”

Read: Challenging Islamophobia at UNC Chapel Hill

At Orange Politics, a blog that focuses on progressive perspectives in Orange County, N.C., activist Manzoor Cheema wrote about the impact of Horowitz’s visit and about how his group, Muslims for Social Justice, is working in coalition to address anti-Muslim bigotry and bigotry of all kinds. An excerpt of Cheema’s post is below; read the full post at Orange Politics.

“When David Horowitz was invited by UNC College Republicans to speak at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill just two months after the murders of three Muslim youth in Chapel Hill, it caused alarm among the Muslim community and their allies at UNC and the greater Triangle area. …”

“In the context of rising Islamophobia in the country and the murders of three Muslim youth in Chapel Hill, Horowitz’s speech added insult to injury. His talk at UNC has mobilized Muslims students in Chapel Hill and their allies to launch #NotSafeUNC campaign. UNC students have shared stories such as, UNC faculty’s insensitivity toward Muslim students psychological trauma in the wake of Chapel Hill tragedy, or UNC security guard suspecting a Muslim woman for carrying a bomb to the Dean Dome. Farris Barakat, brother of Chapel Hill murder victim Deah Barakat, supported #NotSafeUNC campaign by tweeting that his brother was murdered because ‘freedom of speech has been used to defame Muslims through lies. Speak up.’

“A broad movement that challenges all forms of oppression is essential to ending Islamophobia. UNC community organized an action titled “People of Color Takeover of the Quad” on April 24, 2015, that mobilized diverse allies – Muslims, Palestinians, African Americans, Asians, LGBT activists, feminists, Triangle area social justice activists and many more. One of the actions included dropping a banner on Saunders Hall to rechristen it “Hurston Hall”, thus changing its name from a KKK leader to the first Black student at UNC as part of the #KickOutTheKKK campaign.

“As members of Muslims for SocialJustice and a network fighting racism and Islamophobia in North Carolina, we fully support UNC community in their fights against bigotry and oppression. Hatred will win only if demagogues divide us by fear. As a coalition of forces working against all forms of hatred – either based on race, ethnicity, gender, religion or sexual orientation, we will not let the forces of hate prevail.”

Visit the Muslims for Social Justice Facebook page to learn more.

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