On Monday, I was shocked. An advertisement appeared in this newspaper that explicitly espoused the hatred of Muslims. The bold letters and graphic imagery betrayed the morbid intent of its sponsor, the David Horowitz Freedom Center. My biggest fear as a Muslim prevailed at last: Islamophobia surges again. Neither the statements of outrage from fellow Longhorns nor the statement made by the editor-in-chief who voted against the ad can appease me. That the publication of the advertisement was sanctioned by individuals at Texas Student Media goes to show that the roots of racism still course through the veins of far too many UT students.
Given the newspaper’s recent budget cuts, I wondered whether the decision to run the ad was made out of TSM’s desperation to increase its income. But how could even such dire financial straits justify the violent and hateful full-page advertisement?
As a student-run publication, The Daily Texan cannot jeopardize Muslims’ right to security in the name of free speech. The ad perpetuated societal stereotypes against us, portraying us as abusers, terrorists and worse.
Snehal Shingavi, an assistant professor in the Asian American Studies department who taught a “Literature of Islamophobia” class last semester, said that the individuals depicted in the advertisement are intentionally framed in a way to demonize Islam. He elaborates that those cases are mostly personal and none of them has direct association to the Islamic religion itself. For example, many Pakistanis protested in support of Rimsha Masih, a 14-year-old Christian girl who was accused of burning the pages from the Quran, when her case went to trial. Masih, who was featured in Monday’s ad, was later released after it was determined that she was framed by a local cleric.
Unfortunately, this was not the first time that such offensive ads have been sanctioned for publication in The Daily Texan. Mr. Shingavi recalled seeing other ads that bore similar sentiment against Muslims published in the newspaper in previous years. He said the publication of those ads was immediately followed by protests and rallies by the students, and even though Texas Student Media has purportedly made efforts at racial sensitivity training to prevent this issue from occurring in the future, the appearance of Monday’s ad suggests that these efforts have been inadequate or ineffective.
Texas Student Media clearly made a lapse in ethical judgment when it sanctioned the publication of such ads. The Daily Texan should establish a guideline that prevents the publication of ads containing any sentiment of racism. The hatred such advertisements convey toward Islam is denigrating and has no place in a student-run newspaper.
Syairah is an economics sophomore from Rawang, Malaysia.