OPINION: NYU incident was an act of bravery

Posted on Mar 18 2019 - 5:50am by Suad Patton-Bey

Ceremonies and vigils have been held worldwide to honor the lives that were lost at last week’s shooting in New Zealand. It is being called the worst attack against Muslims in modern history.

A vigil held in New York City at NYU’s Islamic Center took an interesting turn when two NYU students, Leen Dweik and Rose Asaf, confronted Chelsea Clinton regarding her tweet about Rep. Ilhan Omar, which added to the onslaught of anti-Semitic charges that were hurled against her.

On Feb. 10th Clinton tweeted, “Co-signed as an American. We should expect all elected officials, regardless of party, and all public figures to not traffic in anti-Semitism.” She was directly responding to a tweet by the Forward’s opinion editor Batya Ungar-Sargon in which she named a need “to talk about Jews in a non anti-Semitic way.”

Clinton’s response was met with praise from The View host Meghan McCain, who saluted Clinton for calling out anti-Semitism “on all sides, in all spaces, no matter how uncomfortable.”

Naturally, Clinton’s tweet had its critics. Melissa Byrne, an affiliate of the Bernie Sanders campaign, expressed her disappointment in Clinton for criticizing Omar instead of reaching out to her. Clinton tweeted back that she planned to contact Omar, who responded with, “I would be happy to talk.”

It is quite plausible that they have settled their differences, but, as far as we know, Clinton has yet to apologize to Omar for helping to fan the flames of anti-Muslim rhetoric that led to death threats against Omar and her family.

Both Dweik and Asaf felt Clinton’s presence at an event to remember those who were slain for their beliefs was highly inappropriate, but instead of taunting her via social media, they seized the opportunity to speak to the former member of the first family.

In a video of the incident, Dweik doesn’t raise her voice at Clinton, but she manages to express her pain and outrage while explaining that when Clinton voiced petty charges of anti-Semitism against Omar, she was participating in the political lynching of the only black Muslim woman in Congress.

Omar’s only real crime was being aforementioned and having the audacity to speak truth to power.

Islamophobia didn’t emerge out of nowhere. It has seeds, roots and even branches. The truth is that Donald Trump didn’t create hatred and bigotry against Muslims, nor did the GOP.

The GOP’s hostility, and some Democrats’ blind complicity, is a manifestation of decades of silence and complicity from the public, as state-sponsored Islamophobia, the war in Iraq, surveillance of Muslims and other things trickled into the media and other parts of society.

We need to stop seeing Islamophobia as a party problem and instead see it as a global problem.

Dweik and Asaf are two bright and brave women. One is a Palestinian-Muslim, the other a Jewish Israeli. Both belong to communities that are endangered due to the global rise of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and white nationalism. It deeply troubles me that their courage has resulted in their receiving threats of murder and sexual assault.

But to me, their unity and unapologetic stance give me a glimmer of hope for the future.

Suad Patton-Bey is a senior journalism major from Oxford.