On supporting students of ALL faiths and backgrounds

Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

Niemöller is perhaps best remembered for the quotation:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Supporting our Muslim students and colleagues

Thanks for sending this email. Important in these times. Here is a post I felt helpful on Facebook about being a Non-Muslim Ally by Sofia Ali-Khan:

Dear Non-Muslim Allies,

I am writing to you because it has gotten just that bad. I have found myself telling too many people about the advice given to me years ago by the late composer Herbert Brun, a German Jew who fled Germany at the age of 15: “be sure that your passport is in order.” It’s not enough to laugh at Donald Trump anymore. The rhetoric about Muslims has gotten so nasty, and is everywhere, on every channel, every newsfeed. It is clearly fueling daily events of targeted violence, vandalism, vigilante harassment, discrimination. I want you to know that it has gotten bad enough that my family and I talk about what to keep on hand if we need to leave quickly, and where we should go, maybe if the election goes the wrong way, or if folks get stirred up enough to be dangerous before the election. When things seem less scary, we talk about a five or a ten year plan to go somewhere where cops don’t carry guns and hate speech isn’t allowed on network television. And if you don’t already know this about me, I want you to know that I was born in this country. I have lived my whole life in this country. I have spent my entire adult life working to help the poor, the disabled and the dispossessed access the legal system in this country. And I want you to know that I am devoutly and proudly Muslim.

I am writing this in response to a non Muslim friend’s question about what she can do. Because there is much that can be done in solidarity:

  • If you see a Muslim or someone who might be identified as Muslim being harassed, stop, say something, intervene, call for help.
  • If you ride public transportation, sit next to the hijabi woman and say asalam ‘alaykum (That means ‘peace to you.’). Don’t worry about mispronouncing it; she won’t care. Just say “peace” if you like. She’ll smile; smile back. If you feel like it, start a conversation. If you don’t, sit there and make sure no one harasses her.
  • If you have a Muslim work colleague, check in. Tell them that the news is horrifying and you want them to know you’re there for them.
  • If you have neighbors who are Muslim, keep an eye out for them. If you’re walking your kids home from the bus stop, invite their kids to walk with you.
  • Talk to your kids. They’re picking up on the anti-Muslim message. Make sure they know how you feel and talk to them about what they can do when they see bullying or hear hate speech at school.
  • Call out hate speech when you hear it—if it incites hatred or violence against a specified group, call it out: in your living room, at work, with friends, in public. It is most important that you do this among folks who may not know a Muslim.
  • Set up a “learn about Islam” forum at your book club, school, congregation, dinner club. Call your state CAIR organization, interfaith group or local mosque and see if there is someone who has speaking experience and could come and answer questions about Islam and American Muslims for your group. They won’t be offended. They will want the opportunity to do something to dispel the nastiness.
  • Write Op Eds and articles saying how deplorable the anti-Muslim rhetoric has gotten and voice your support for Muslim Americans in whatever way you can.
  • Call your state and local representatives, let them know that you are concerned about hate speech against your Muslim friends and neighbors in politics and the media, that it is unacceptable and you want them to call it out whenever they hear it, on your behalf.
  • Out yourself as someone who won’t stand for Islamophobia, or will stand with Muslims—there is an awful lot of hate filling the airways, and there are an awful lot of people with access to the media and/or authority stirring the pot about Muslims. Please help fill that space with support instead. Post, write, use your profile picture or blog to voice your support.
  • Ask me anything. Really. Engage the Muslims in your life. Make sure you really feel comfortable standing for and with your Muslim friends, neighbors, coworkers.

I can tell you that in addition to the very real threat to their civil and human rights that Muslims are facing, we are dealing with a tremendous amount of anxiety. While we, many of us, rely on our faith to stay strong, we are human. This is not an easy time. What you do will mean everything to the Muslim Americans around you. Thank you for reading and bless you in your efforts. Share freely.

Tolerance and our Muslim community at BSU

Colleagues,

Staff in the BSU International Program Center have been meeting with many of our Muslim students who are increasingly becoming targets of disparaging comments from other students and from members of the Bemidji community. The frequency and intensity of those comments seem to be increasing, especially over the past few weeks.

As a result, we have spoken with students who are upset, in tears, and afraid to go into the local community.

This is unacceptable. In my opinion it reflects:

1. a deep misunderstanding of religious beliefs held by devout Muslims
2. an inability of some to separate the beliefs and actions of a few from the beliefs and actions of the many
3. an inability of some to separate political rhetoric from reality

This is a very sensitive issue, but I am asking that you be alert to any kind of disparaging comments that may be targeted at ANY student, but especially those of the Islamic faith at this particular time in our history. Such incidents certainly provide an opportunity to engage in additional education and understanding during a teachable moment.

Also, you may want to look at the link below as an example of how one institution is reaffirming its commitment to religious tolerance.

As a public university and college, we welcome people of all faiths and nationalities, and each of us should be leaders in the community in promoting tolerance and understanding.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

http://www.luther.edu/just-action/islamophobia/

http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007392

Martin Tadlock, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Bemidji State University
1500 Birchmont Dr. NE #3
Bemidji, MN 56601
Office: (218) 755 2015; Skype: martin.tadlock
Google number: (218) 308-7711; Google number international: +01 (218) 308-7711

Academic Core Values
Creative and critical thinking
Living democratic principles
Inclusion of students, staff, faculty, and administrators in all aspects of university life
Interactive, relevant, and engaging teaching and learning environments