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Open Letter to NU Leadership on Islamophobia

October 17, 2023

The Asian American Studies Program faculty expresses profound sorrow for the massive loss of life and ongoing violence in Palestine and Israel. We offer heartfelt condolences to all who have lost loved ones to war in this region.

We write to express grave concern about NU Leadership’s silence about the loss of life in Palestine, concern for the safety and wellbeing of Palestinian Americans in the NU community, and the visible Islamophobia expressed in pro-Israel posters on NU’s campus falsely claiming that “Hamas is ISIS.” We call upon NU Leadership to broaden their focus in future communications to include empathy and concern for Palestinian civilians as well as Palestinian Americans and Arab Americans in the NU community also suffering as a result of this war.

On October 7, 2023, Hamas, the political group that has controlled Gaza since 2006, attacked Israel. Israel subsequently declared war, marking the latest in a long line of armed struggles between the two nations since their formation in 1947-48. Over 750,000 Palestinians were driven off their land, marking the brutal transition from colonialism to settler colonialism. Currently, the civilian death toll continues to escalate through the ongoing bombing of Palestinian settlements and Israeli blockades of food, water, and medicine to Occupied Palestinian Territories. The devastating effects of this humanitarian crisis are apparent as Palestinians are once again displaced and Islamophobia escalates worldwide.

Indeed, the war has reached Chicagoland. On Saturday, Wadea Al-Fayoume, a 6-year-old Palestinian American boy in Plainfield, IL was stabbed to death in what is widely reported to be an anti-Muslim hate crime. His mother, Hanaan Shahin, remains hospitalized. Over the last week, NU’s campus has been plastered with anti-Palestinian war propaganda mimicking the Israeli state. One poster claimed that “Hamas beheaded babies,” a statement that has been widely dismissed as false. Such baseless claims are meant to incite hate against Palestine and equate supporting Palestinian civilians with antisemitism.

The Asian American Studies program stands in solidarity with Palestinians, Arab Americans, the SWANA diaspora, and victims of Islamophobia worldwide. We call upon NU Leadership to acknowledge the death of Palestinian civilians alongside the devastating Israeli loss of life. We express frustration that NU’s Leadership still has not called upon renowned scholars in the Middle East North Africa Program, who expertly detail in their own letter to The Daily why such inclusion is vital. We urge NU Leadership to condemn the circulation of Islamophobic messaging advocated in posters on campus, such as “If you don’t stand with Israel, you stand with ISIS.” We ask that NU Leadership take seriously the vulnerable position such messaging creates for Palestinian American and Arab American students, faculty and staff. Some NU community members have already been attacked online for expressing concern for Palestine, signaling the need for greater care and concern by NU’s Leadership.

As Ethnic Studies scholars, we are pro-Palestine and against antisemitism because we understand that all systems of oppression reinforce one another, and none can be fought in isolation. Islamophobia and antisemitism must both be eradicated if we are to live without violence. We offer our program as a haven for those who support or are Palestinian Americans, Arab Americans, SWANA diaspora, and anyone experiencing Islamophobia at NU who seeks a safe space.

The Asian American Studies Program