Removing the flags was wrong, but Islamophobia is inexcusable

| Contributing Writer

Removing the American flags from the 9/11 memorial was wrong, but in no way does the student who did so deserve the racial and Islamophobic attacks he has been receiving. The continuation of such actions fails our Muslim population the people who have been on the receiving end of these despicable attacks. 

As a result of the extremely heinous language directed at this student, many Muslim students here at WashU have expressed fear for their safety on campus. Fear of being verbally or physically attacked because of their religion has led many to rethink attending classes.

While I believe the act of removing flags was wrong, what is the next step for us as a community? Is it to work together to find different ways we can cooperate on this matter while upholding the right to freedom of speech on our campus? Or is it, like some have done, to racially abuse an individual and threaten his safety by sharing his address in the name of remembering the lives lost on 9/11?

We owe it to him as an academic institution to be open to conversation, to meet him intellectually where he is and to respect his freedom of speech; failing to do so would go against everything we strive for as an institution. So let’s meet him, and let’s see where he was coming from. 

The 9/11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon, Twin Towers and the attempt on the U.S. Capitol building left many Americans grieving and angry. But much of that grief and anger was wrongly directed at Muslim Americans. The passage of The Patriot Act didn’t make things better for Muslim Americans; increased government surveillance in the name of counter-terrorism disproportionately affected them, with the FBI sending informants to report on potential terrorist activities. 

Additionally, about 810,000 lives were lost as a result of the United States’ war in countries such Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and Pakistan. Thousands of those lost were United States service members and U.S. civilian contractors, but a significant portion of the 810,000 deaths were of innocent civilians –– around 335,000. In addition to the deaths and those wounded or affected by resulting health conditions, around 38 million people were forcibly displaced from their home countries. 

Sept. 11, 2001 was indeed a tragic day in America, but to those who racially attacked and harassed the student for his views of that day: You are not honoring the lives of the victims lost by using harmful language that puts him and other Muslim students in danger. If anything, you are disrespecting those victims for using their deaths to further your own personal vendettas. You are not a hero standing up to “terrorism” and “promoting freedom” as some of you like to believe. At best, you are nothing more than an ignorant, bigoted and racist person who is too immature to function in a civil society. Islamophobia on our campus should not be tolerated in any way, and I am disappointed that the University has not addressed this

Everyone on our campus deserves to feel safe and protected during their time here. But as of right now, that isn’t the case for many of our Muslim peers, and we are failing them in that regard. I ask each and every one of us to be there for each other. Reach out to those who have been affected by the Islamophobic attacks; give them hugs, call them. 

Lastly, a personal note to my classmates in the WashU class of 2025: We are WashU’s largest and most racially diverse freshman class ever. Let’s live up to that expectation. We are the class that has been able to assemble here from across the country and globe. We are here for a reason, and I believe that reason is to grow together as a community through supporting one another respectfully and being there for each other — especially for our Muslim classmates.


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