Islamophobia around the US increases with anti-Palestine rhetoric 


Date published: Tue, 16 April 24

University of Southern California valedictorian’s speech was canceled by the university, citing security concerns. Asna Tabassum, the 2024 valedictorian, is a Muslim woman who wears hijab. Previously selected in April, the university provost Andrew Guzman wrote, “While this is disappointing, tradition must give way to safety. This decision is not only necessary to maintain the safety of our campus and students, but is consistent with the fundamental legal obligation — including the expectations of federal regulators — that universities act to protect students and keep our campus community safe.”

Tabassum majored in biomedical engineering and minored in USC’s “resistance to genocide.” This cancelation comes after Tabassum was accused of being antisemitic by a pro-Israel group. In a personal statement. Tabassum cites anti-Muslim and anti-Palestine voices have subjected her to “a campaign of racist hatred because of my uncompromising belief in human rights for all.” She says, “I am not surprised by those who attempt to propagate hatred. I am surprised that my own university—my home for four years—has abandoned me.”

Many are criticizing the decision by USC, citing anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim racism. The Islamophobia since October 7 is skyrocketing, with visible Muslim and visible Palestinian students suffering under rising tensions. 

CAIR-LA Executive Director, Hussam Ayloush, said, “The dishonest and defamatory attacks on Asna are nothing more than thinly-veiled manifestations of Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian racism, which have been weaponized against college students across the country who speak up for human rights—and for Palestinian humanity.” 

In October 2023, 6-year old Palestinian-American boy Wadea Al-Fayounne, was stabbed to death in his home by the apartrment’s landlord. In November, three Palestinian students wearing the Palestinian keffiyeh  were shot in Vermont.  One of the students, Hisham Awartani, became paralyzed by the shooting from the chest down. Hisham grew up in the West Bank. In January pro-Palestine students at Columbia University were sprayed with a hazardous chemical called “Skunk.” In academic settings, several universities have banned university chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace. In UC Berkeley, a law professor assaulted a Muslim hijabi student donning a keffiyeh giving a speech during a dinner at her home. And just this weekend, a pro-Palestine professor, Jodi Dean, was placed on leave from her tenured position at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

It is clear that antisemitism is weaponized against those who advocate for a free Palestine, for a stop to the genocide in Gaza, and a stop to the occupation of Palestinian lands. CAIR has said it received 3,578 complaints of anti-Palestine and anti-Muslim hate incidents in the last three months of 2023. In the university setting, students and professors who hold pro-Palestinian views are subjugated to suspension and firing. 

Anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim rhetoric, such as citing Palestinians and Muslims as barbarians, terrorists, savages, dehumanizes the individuals, and leads to an institutionalized hateful rhetoric. Organizations and individuals must reject these narratives, and fervently support a free Palestine.