On Wednesday evening, the Associated Students at the University of California (ASUC) at Berkeley voted unanimously to support a resolution “condeming Islamophobic hate speech at the University of California.”
The resolution focused on the recent incident of the outrageously racist and Islamophobic hate speech of Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, a lecturer at UC Santa Cruz, who was videotaped in June 2012 saying that campus activists involved in Students for Justice in Palestine and Muslim student organizations have ties to “terrorist organizations.”
Rossman-Benjamin, as The Electronic Intifada has extensively reported, is the co-founder of an outside political group, the Amcha Initiative, which seeks out students and professors who criticize Israel or engage in Palestine solidarity activism, accuse them of “anti-Semitism,” and urge university administrations — or state officials — to take punitive action against them.
Immediately after the video surfaced, Rossman-Benjamin’s inciteful hate speech was condemned by student organizations at UC Santa Cruz and elsewhere across the UC system. However, outgoing UC President Mark Yudof has so far refused to take any condemnatory action against her speech, a demand urged by students; while a report posted by Mondoweiss added that his office has only offered a “no comment” response.
Students at UC Santa Cruz have launched a video campaign in which students give personal testimonials on their reaction to Rossman-Benjamin’s hate speech and the UC administration’s inaction. So far, more than a dozen testimonials can be viewed on the UC Santa Cruz Committee for Justice in Palestine YouTube account.
The ASUC resolution calls Yudof out on his silence, and urges him “to condemn these inflammatory, hateful, and racist assumptions by UCSC lecturer Tammi Rossman-Benjamin against Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian students, and Palestinian rights activists.” The resolution also urges other campuses “to pass similar bills in their respective student governments.
Posting on his blog following Wednesday night’s passage of the anti-hate speech resolution, ASUC senator Daley Vertiz commented that he wanted to thank MEMSA, the Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian Coalition at Berkeley who showed up at the senate meeting and “were brave enough to share the harsh realities faced by the Muslim community in post-9/11 America.”
I also want to thank Senator Sadia Saifuddin for consistently being open in sharing her experiences as a Muslim womyn. I am extremely grateful that I have been able to meet you and learn more about your experiences. I think it is extremely important for all people to become educated on issues facing the Muslim community. We must deconstruct the innacurate and ignorant anti-Islam narrative that often plagues our minds through the way in which the media shapes our knowledge of the Middle East and the Muslim community.
The full text of the resolution reads:
SB 114- AMENDED- PASSED
A Resolution Condemning Islamophobic Hate Speech at the University of California
Authored By: Senator Sadia Saifuddin
Co-sponsored By: Senator Sadia Saifuddin, Senator Klein Lieu, Senator Rosemary Hua, Senator George Kadifa, Senator Daley Vertiz
WHEREAS, the University of California has identified the issue of campus climate as a priority for administration, staff, and students across the UC system; and,
WHEREAS, the UC prides itself on welcoming students from any race, religion, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, yet pockets of racism and hate still exist on this campus which makes the UC an unwelcoming experience for certain communities; and,
WHEREAS, Islamophobia is defined as the irrational fear of Islam, Muslims, or anything related to the Islamic or Arab cultures and traditions; and,
WHEREAS, since September 11, 2001, Islamophobia has become the latest “hazing” technique across the United States and has created a chilling effect for Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians in their communities, work-environments, and campuses; and,
WHEREAS, according to a Gallup Study, 60% of of Muslim Americans say that Muslims face prejudice from Americans; and,
WHEREAS, 48% of Muslim Americans say that they have personally faced racial or religious discrimination, which is on par with Hispanic Americans (48%), and African Americans (45%), while 54% of Arab Americans say they have experienced this type of discrimination; and,
WHEREAS, since 2006, Muslim students have been targeted for surveillance by the FBI in Orange County, who said that they are paying particular attention to Muslim students at UC Irvine and UCLA; and,
WHEREAS, this surveillance is occurring on the East Coast as well, with the New York Police Department surveillance of Muslim students at Yale, Columbia, Syracuse, Rutgers, New York University, and Brooklyn College; and,
WHEREAS, these racist and selective surveillance procedures are justified by figures in mainstream media, such as David Horowitz, who defines the core mission of the MSA to “advance the Islamic Jihad against the Jews and Christians of the Middle East, and ultimately against the United States”, and,
WHEREAS, attempts to mischaracterize and chill Palestinian activism have occurred on Berkeley’s own campus, with a lawsuit filed in July 2011(later dismissed in court) against the UC Regents and President Mark Yudof containing extremely Islamophobic and anti-Arab rhetoric referring to Students for Justice in Palestine and the Muslims Students Association as “anti-Semitic” and “pro-terrorist”; and,
WHEREAS, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit allege that “the more publicly active SJP may be understood as the more militant arm of the outwardly benevolent MSA” and that SJP, MSA, and MSU all “fund terrorism” and are tied to terrorist groups; and,
WHEREAS, more recently, UC Santa Cruz lecturer Tammi Rossman-Benjamin has been responsible for inciting racist and Islamophobic rhetoric by claimings that students in the MSA and SJP are “…generally motivated by very strong religious and political convictions, they have a fire in their belly, they come to the university, many of them are foreign students who come from countries and cultures where anti-Semitism is how they think about the world … These are not your ordinary student groups like College Republicans or Young Democrats. These are students who come with a serious agenda, who have ties to terrorist organizations.”; and,
WHEREAS, claims such as those cited above create an unsafe and divisive environment for Middle Eastern, Muslim, South Asian students, and others who may be perceived as being of similar descent, and these claims are completely opposite to the values of a premier university system; and,
WHEREAS, the President of the University of California, Mark Yudof, is responsible for advocating for all students regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation; and,
WHEREAS, the University of California is no place for hateful and inflammatory rhetoric and holds its students, faculty, staff, and affiliates to higher standards that promote a positive and inclusive campus climate; therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED, that the ASUC condemn the remarks of lecturer Tammi Rossman-Benjamin and those described in the above-mentioned lawsuit as hateful and inflammatory; and,
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the ASUC urge President Mark Yudof to condemn these inflammatory, hateful, and racist assumptions by UCSC lecturer Tammi Rossman-Benjamin against Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian students, and Palestinian rights activists; and,
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that EAVP Shahryar Abbasi write a letter to UCOP condemning the racist and bigoted language by Tammi Rossman-Benjamin and President Yudof’s failure to address the matter, as well as passing a similar bill with UCSA; and,
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the ASUC urge other campuses to pass similar bills in their respective student governments.