Staff editorial: Administration must demonstrate religious inclusivity

The events of September 11, 2001, inflicted trauma on families and communities across the world. For the country as a whole, the day also marked a turning point for religious tolerance. This week, as we commemorate that day and remember the lives lost, it is critical that we consider the ways September 11 changed the way many of our fellow Americans are perceived.

Muslim Americans, nationally and on Tulane’s campus, often face instances of Islamophobia. The Tulane administration has not yet taken sufficient measures to protect these students.

Last October, hate crimes against American Muslims reached a number unmatched since September 11, 2001. Following President Trump’s election, the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes rose even further, with hate crimes against a range of minority groups up by 20 percent.

Recent incidents in the U.S. have made many Muslims feel unsafe, and students on Tulane’s campus have voiced their own concerns. Following the election of President Trump in November 2016, Tulane students organized a protest calling for the Tulane administration to “take immediate and concrete steps to address [the] structures of oppression” which impact marginalized communities, according to a statement distributed at the protest.

At the protest, some Muslim students said they felt unsafe on Tulane’s campus. In February, students expressed worries about increases in Islamophobia on campus in the wake of President Trump’s executive order banning citizens from predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S.

“We are scared and frightened for our hijabi mothers and sisters, for our bearded Muslim brothers, and for our Muslim fellows and other marginalized groups,” the Tulane Muslim Student Association wrote in a Facebook post. “And when we see hijabs being ripped off, when we see death threats being casually left on desks, when we see children telling each other that they’ll be deported, our fears are only aggravated.”

Tulane’s Muslim students have just as much of a right to feel safe and welcomed on our campus as do any other students. In light of students’ fears, Tulane administrators must commit to protecting all members of our community.

The Office of Multicultural Affairs is currently working with the Tulane Muslim Student Association to reserve the O’s meditation room as an Islamic prayer space for specific periods of time within the day. While this represents a step in the right direction, it should not be seen as an adequate response to the sense of fear and unrest these students face.

Using the O’s space only takes resources and space away from one marginalized group to accommodate another, providing only a temporary solution at best.

Furthermore, repurposing space typically used by students of color for a prayer room effectively racializes Muslim students by implying all Muslims are people of color.

Muslim students deserve a safe prayer space that is both permanent and entirely their own. While we are seeing some improvements with regard to protecting Muslim students, as long as bigotry against Muslims remains present in our community, larger and more substantive measures can and should be taken. 

A permanent prayer room and more concrete policies holding those who commit acts of hate against Muslim students accountable are reasonable steps for the university to take.

In January, following President Trump’s travel ban, Tulane President Michael Fitts wrote in a Special View from Gibson, “they belong here … this is their home and … we are their family.”

We call on the administration to turn these words into action. 

Staff Editorials are written weekly by members of the Tulane Hullabaloo Board and approved by the full Board by a 2/3 majority vote. 

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