UT removes anti-Muslim posters from campus

Catherine Marfin

This article has been updated since its original publication.

Dozens of anti-Muslim posters appeared on campus Monday morning, suggesting people should “imagine a Muslim-free America.”

While many posters were posted by American Vanguard, a white supremacy group, it is unclear if the group was responsible for all versions of the posters that were seen on campus. The posters have since been removed by UT staff in the Dean of Students Office.

J.B. Bird, director of UT media relations, released a statement Monday afternoon regarding the posters.

“This morning, staff at The University of Texas at Austin discovered signs on the Student Activity Center, College of Liberal Arts and the Sanchez building containing political messages aimed at immigrants, minorities and Muslims,” Bird said in the statement. “The signs, some of which were affixed with adhesive, are in the process of being removed. The university vigorously supports free speech, but posting signs of any nature on the outside of university buildings is not allowed under campus rules. Additionally, as per policy, only students and student organizations are allowed to post signage in approved spaces
on campus.”

According to American Vanguard’s website, the group’s Texas branch has placed posters at Texas State University, the University of North Texas and the University of Texas at Dallas, among others.

UT President Gregory Fenves responded to the incident on his Twitter account. 

“When some try to divide us, Longhorns stand together,” Fenves said in the tweet. “Diversity and inclusion are among our top priorities.” 

Rami Abi Habib, international relations and global studies junior, was walking home from class when he saw the posters late Sunday night. After removing the poster from the pole on Guadalupe Street, Habib posted it to the UT Class of 2019 Facebook page.

“(The posters) increase alienation of an already alienated section of UT, which are Muslim students,” Habib said. “Such propaganda — and yes, I do mean that word — creates an environment where your opinion isn’t just expressed, it’s aggressive. You are not simply voicing an opinion, you are attaching it to things like terrorist attacks, and it is directly affecting other people who could be just as hurt as you are. It paints an extremely black and white picture.”

Habib said other students on the page commented on his post and reported the posters to the Office of the Dean of Students.

“I’m all for expression and right to an opinion, and if you simply do not agree with what a religion stands for and prefer to not surround yourself with it — more power to you,” Habib said. “But there’s a pattern forming of violence not debate, and it scares me. You have the right to an opinion — not the right to enforce one.”

Theatre studies sophomore Francesca Ghizzoni said she didn’t see the posters on campus firsthand but became aware of them after several students posted them on the UT Class of 2019
Facebook page. 

“I’m sure UT wouldn’t stand for the distribution of these flyers as President Fenves has made it very clear to us, especially in the light of the recent election, that this campus is no place for hatred and bigotry,” Ghizzoni said. “These posters are amazingly problematic, because not only are we a learning institution, we are a university that takes pride in our diversity. We are not a
campus of hatred.”