Press release on Islamophobia
CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM
CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM
Our civil liberties are being violated in the name of security again! The effect is to stir hate and fear. Since the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, we have seen a dramatic and disturbing increase in anti-Muslim and anti-Arab sentiment in the United States. California Scholars for Academic Freedom is particularly concerned that Islamophobia is manifesting itself in ways that threaten the academic freedom and civil liberties of researchers, teachers, and students. These include physical threats, censorship, and termination of employment. Many of these cases involve no more than teaching basic cultural and historical information about the Middle East.
Teachers who teach this basic subject matter are often either accused of being terrorist sympathizers or, in the most egregious cases, accused of being terrorists themselves. Police are called to arrest Muslim and Arab American students for “suspicious-looking” backpacks. Schools in Augusta County, Virginia, were closed after an Arabic calligraphy lesson prompted a disturbing anti-Muslim backlash. A Philadelphia Sunday Sun December 19 article documents the daily physical and verbal abuses and harassments Muslim children have to endure in schools across the nation. Attacks against Muslims have tripled since the Paris attacks, reaching levels not seen since the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001. All of this serves to punish those whose points of view are deemed dangerous. This “danger” more often than not is a grossly distorted mis-representation of ordinary lessons in history and culture.
At the college-level, Islamophobia is manifested in threats to defund centers for Middle East studies if they appear to be advocating a particular point of view. Frivolous lawsuits are filed to intimidate administrations, faculty, and students. One of the most common targets for such actions are scholars and students who voice criticism of Israeli state policies. They are branded as terrorists, and in this case, as anti-Semitic. Once again, Muslims, Arabs, and Arab Americans are especially targeted for such attacks.
In the first six months of 2015 alone, Palestine Legal responded to 140 incidents and 33 requests for assistance in anticipation of potential suppression. The overwhelming majority of these incidents targeted students and scholars, a reaction to the increasingly central role universities play in the movement for Palestinian rights.
California Scholars for Academic Freedom, a group of close to 200 scholars from different academic institutions in California which advocates the protection of academic freedom of faculty, staff, and students, categorically rejects all forms of intolerance, any discriminatory treatment of Arabs and Muslim (citizens and non-citizens) faculty and students, and all attempts to curtail the free flow of ideas with regard to the Middle East.
We call on all schools, colleges, and universities to honor and respect the academic freedom of all faculty, teachers, and students, and urge our educational leaders, not only in California but also in the whole USA, to fight Islamophobic speech and acts that might affect the academic rights of our faculty, staff, and students.
California Scholars for Academic Freedom
Professor Ahlam Muhtaseb
California State University, San Bernardino
Professor David Palumbo-Liu
* CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM (cs4af) is a group of scholars who defend academic freedom, the right of shared governance, and the First Amendment rights of faculty and students in the academy and beyond. We recognize that violations of academic freedom anywhere are threats to academic freedom everywhere. California Scholars for Academic Freedom investigates legislative and administrative infringements on freedom of speech and assembly, and it raises the consciousness of politicians, university regents and administrators, faculty, students and the public at large through open letters, press releases, petitions, statements, and articles.
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