Student groups condemn Islamophobia as College Republicans reiterates calls for Alkilani’s expulsion amid University’s silence on threats

and | Editor-in-Chief and Managing Editor

Editor’s note: This story discusses Islamophobia and the toll of 9/11. We have listed resources for people directly affected by these topics at the end of this piece.

Student groups continued to condemn the proliferation of violent threats against senior Fadel Alkilani on Monday as Washington University remained silent on the Islamophobic attacks and as College Republicans again called for Alkilani’s expulsion.

Chancellor Andrew Martin reprehended Alkilani’s removal of 9/11 memorial flags from Mudd Field in a message to the community Sunday evening but has not addressed the widespread Islamophobic rhetoric and threats despite many Muslim students’ expressions of fear for their safety. University administrators have not provided a timeline for any disciplinary actions the school might take against Alkilani.

The Washington University Muslim Students Association called on administrators to protect students, saying in a statement Monday that “it would be a major abdication of the University administration’s responsibility for the safety and security of the WashU community if the administration failed to treat the campaign of harassment and threats against WashU’s Muslim students with adequate seriousness and urgency.”

Martin has not made a public statement on the situation since his Sunday email and had not responded to Student Life’s request for an interview by late Monday evening.

In a statement emailed to club members and posted on their Instagram account Monday afternoon, College Republicans demanded Alkilani face punishment. “We call on Washington University and the members of its community to, at minimum, ensure the student is removed from Student Union and his residential advisor position,” the statement said. “Based on the severity of destruction uncovered in a formal investigation, we demand Alkilani be expelled from the University.”

The statement also said that College Republicans “vehemently opposes and is disgusted with the Islamophobia and harassment [Alkilani] and others have faced because of the situation’s notoriety. We condemn any such behavior and hope any such bad actors face the appropriate consequences.”

A joint statement from individual students and several groups, including Students for Black and Palestinian Liberation, WashU Students for Abolition and the WashU Middle Eastern and North African Association, identified the College Republicans as having instigated the online hate, saying that recording and spreading the video “rather than engaging in dialogue that could have resulted in mutual understanding…opened an avenue for WashU students, community members and unaffiliated individuals to engage in targeted harassment and spew racist and Islamophobic comments against Fadel. This hostile social media campaign allowed people to dox and violently threaten both Fadel and members of his family, endangering their safety.”

Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Rob Wild said in a brief phone interview with Student Life Monday night that he had been in touch with Alkilani to make sure he was aware of the resources available for his safety but did not identify the resources and declined to comment about whether the Washington University Police Department was involved.

WUPD Chief Mark Glenn did not respond to Student Life’s request for comment Monday afternoon.

Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Dean of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion Mark Kamimura-Jiménez condemned the Islamophobic attacks in an interview with Student Life Monday afternoon. No administrators have communicated that sentiment to the full student body in any official capacity.

Kamimura-Jiménez said he was planning programming to educate the University community about Islamophobia and provide “spaces for students to come together, debrief, process and get any kind of support that they would need.” He noted that most of the threats had come from outside of the University community but said that if students had experienced similar things from within the community, they should use the Bias Report and Support System form or go through Campus Life to address potential student conduct concerns.

A room with green walls and a grey carpet is shown. Tables, multicolored sofas and bookshelves are placed around the room.Grace Bruton | Student Life

Dean of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion Mark Kamimura-Jiménez plans on providing spaces for students to process the events of the last few days.

In an email to the student body Monday afternoon, members of the Student Union Executive Board and legislative leadership condemned the fact that “[Alkilani] and other Muslim students on our campus have received death threats, experienced doxxing and been attacked with racial slurs, xenophobic rhetoric and Islamophobic comments.”

While distancing themselves from Alkilani’s actions, the student leaders said that “​​regardless of our views on a specific act of protest, the backlash and response has been unacceptable. The chance for a productive and engaging dialogue was lost when threats and disparaging comments were made.”

College Republicans’ Monday statement claimed that Alkilani “​​simply left the flags in the trash. These facts are undeniable. There is video evidence of him disposing of the flags and no evidence of his intention to create a counter-protest. There is evidence he destroyed flags and left them in the garbage. He is a liar.”

However, junior Mackenzie Manofsky told KMOV4 that College Republicans recovered the flags “in similar condition to how they were before (a few had broken poles, probably from being taken out of the ground so quickly, but mostly unnoticeable).”

While a video has been circulated on social media showing American flags in a trash can, the footage does not show Alkilani. The now-viral clip of Alkilani holding blue plastic bags full of flags does not show him damaging the flags or throwing them away.

In a brief phone interview Sunday, Student Life asked College Republicans sophomore Nathaniel Hope, who recorded both videos, if there was video evidence of Alkilani disposing of or destroying the flags. Hope said he saw Alkilani near the trash can but had not seen Alkilani putting the flags in the can.

In his statement on Saturday, Alkilani claimed that he “did not deface, destroy, damage nor steal any flags,” adding that he had “no intention of removing the flags from the Mudd Field area.”

Ted Moskal contributed reporting.

The Muslim Wellness Foundation’s Community Trauma Toolkit offers resources and advice for coping with grief, trauma and microaggressions.

Naseeha is a helpline for Muslim youth to receive immediate, anonymous and confidential support by phone call or text to 1-866-627-3342 from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. CST every day.

Tuesday’s Children is an organization that supports communities recovering from large-scale tragedies and mass violence, including those grieving 9/11 victims and responders.

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