Student organizations confront Islamophobia, support refugees during West Mall rally

Zach Lyons

Shouts, flyers and speeches filled the West Mall on Friday evening as seven student organizations held a rally to speak out against Islamophobia and anti-refugee sentiment.

Associate professor Snehal Shingavi said changing this negative view of Islam will require examination of U.S. policy beyond this nation’s borders.

“The end to Islamophobia will only happen if there is some serious confrontation with what American foreign policy is doing abroad,” Shingavi said.

Such events are an important means of appealing to the American people, said Mohammed Nabulsi, a law student and a leader in the Palestine Solidarity Committee.

“In organizing against Islamophobia or welcoming refugees, we should be informing people what is needed [and] what we need as a community from our fellow Americans,” Nabulsi said.

The rally was co-sponsored by the Society for Islamic Awareness, Syrian People Solidarity Group and Hack the System, among others.

Approximately 50 people were in attendance, raising fists and nodding in approval as speakers took the microphone. UTPD officers watched over the area from the front porch of the Flawn Academic Center, looking out for counterprotesters and ensuring the safety of the students, officers said. Members of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) handed out promotional flyers to students that walked by.

Several leaders of the co-sponsoring groups gave speeches, touching on issues relating to sweatshop labor, racial discrimination and government policies. 

Shingavi said Islamophobia is undeniably linked to “the American military project in the Middle East” and has influenced tactical decisions and public awareness.

“The only thing that they have been repeatedly able to use in order to justify military intervention abroad is fear of Islam,” Shingavi said. “This is why the only thing you know about what’s going on in the Middle East is ISIS and Al-Qaeda.”

The rally included several chants shouting for acceptance of refugees and a rebuke of Islamophobia.

One of the rally’s organizers, Seth Uzman, a math and economics junior and member of ISO, explained the significance of the date, Feb. 19, referencing the signing of Executive Order 9066 by President Franklin Roosevelt, which authorized the internment of Japanese Americans amid the tensions of World War II.

“This day wasn’t chosen by accident,” Uzman said. “In 1942, on this day, over 100,000 Japanese immigrants to the United States were forcibly removed from their homes and placed in detention camps.”

This article has been updated to reflect that Mohammed Nabulsi is a leader in PSC, not its president.