California students pass anti-Islamophobia resolution

After approximately five hours of discussion, the ASUCD Senate passed Senate Resolution 21 on April 25 with a 7-4-1 vote. The resolution condemns Islamophobic speech at the University of California. The resolution defined Islamaphobia as “the irrational fear of Islam, Muslims or anything related to the Islamic or Arab cultures and traditions.” Authors stated that it was written due to the concerns for students’ well-being, safety on campus and the administration’s failure to address issues.

During public discussion, some members of the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and other students spoke in support of the resolution. Members of the Ayn Rand Society (ARS), the group that held the April 11 “Islamists Rising” event on campus, spoke in opposition of the resolution. The event held by the ARS, which featured panelists such as author Daniel Pipes, sparked a conversation about freedom of speech on campus and with the administration.

Kriti Garg, an author of the bill and a second-year international relations and community and regional development double major, said the April 11 event was an example of why the resolution was necessary. “It just so happened that at this time we had very prominent issues focusing on Islamophobia on our campus and … [it] really goes to illustrate that [Islamophobia] happens all the time,” Garg said.

Senate Resolution 21 was authored by the Ethnic and Cultural Affairs Commission (ECAC) along with several co-authors, including ASUCD Senator Alyson Sagala and ECAC Chair Emmanuel Diaz-Ordaz. According to Garg, it was inspired by a piece of legislation addressing Islamophobia in the UC system that was passed at UC Berkeley on March 20.

The resolution states that the UC system identifies itself as prioritizing campus climate, however, the issue of Islamophobia on campus has created an unwelcoming environment for certain communities. The resolution also addresses the “Islamophobic rhetoric” of UC Santa Cruz lecturer Tammi Rossman-Benjamin and condemns her rhetoric while also urging UC President Mark Yudof to condemn Rossman-Benjamin’s language.

Additionally, the resolution encourages UC Davis administrators to track reports of discrimination and hate crimes against “Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, Southwest Asian, North African, Arab and South Asian Americans.”

Under the resolution, ASUCD President Carly Sandstrom is to write a letter condemning Rossman-Benjamin’s rhetoric and Yudof’s failure to address the issue. The resolution also urges other campuses to pass similar bills.

“I am a Pakistani American Muslim. I have personally experienced hate speech because of the fact that I am or ‘look’ Muslim. My friends have experienced this,” said Sonum Saeed, a fourth-year psychology major and publicity coordinator for MSA, in an email interview.

Saeed said that last week, one female Muslim student who was wearing a headscarf was spit on. “Hate speech affects people on a psychological level, and if you’ve ever been told that your existence, your faith or that your ‘brownness’ is the reason for all evil in the world, then you know exactly what I’m talking about,” Saeed said.

The California Aggie, 2 May 2013