Guest Column: We must fight racism and Islamophobia in Kent

Ghassan Rafeedie

Editor’s note: KentWired encourages discussion in the comments section, but editors will remove harmful comments. This article was also mistakenly titled “Opinion” when it should have been labeled “Guest Column.”

On Monday night, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) showed “Slingshot Hip Hop,” a documentary that discusses the occupation of Palestine by Israel. It does so through the eyes of hip hop artists, and shows how they use hip-hop to respond to the problems in Palestinian society imposed by an illegal occupation. The purpose of our group is to tell the story of the Palestinian people, and this documentary does a very good job of doing just that. However, when Nidal Atallah and I have attempted to tell that story on Kent’s campus, we have faced racism and Islamophobia.

We first hosted an event on April 17 (before SJP was created) called “Ask a Palestinian” and faced a great deal of racism. It was done in solidarity with Palestinian political prisoners and was organized by Kent Books to Prisoners. Our flyers were defaced with references to Zionism, lies from a radical right-wing group called StandWithUs were distributed, racist questions came from a number of pro-Israeli students attempting to hijack our narrative and the story on saw a number of racist comments posted which were not taken down. In fact, Greg Allison, who was president of the Kent State College Republicans at the time, even admitted via Twitter that he was “trolling the palestinians (sic)” during the event.

The comments posted on the online articles of these two events were even worse. After “Ask a Palestinian,” comments were posted saying “Palestinians are miserable and pathetic people,” and telling us to “quit having 10 kids per family when you don’t live anywhere near a good water resource.” Care to guess what Atallah lectured the group on before we took questions from the crowd that day? It was about how Palestinians live near excellent water resources that are being stolen by Israel.

On the article posted about “Slingshot Hip Hop,” we were told that Israel should not be blamed for its occupation of Palestine. The commenter stated, “The problem is Islam and its inability to live side-by-side with any and all non-Muslims.” Perhaps this commenter is too ignorant to realize that Muslims live side by side in peace in virtually every region in the world. In fact, they only had to look as far as the two people whom they were criticizing, as Nidal and I are non-Muslims who have lived side by side in peace with Muslims our entire lives.

We as a community should be ashamed of ourselves when we allow people to act in a racist manner with little to no consequence. If we allow this kind of behavior to continue without a thorough investigation, we run the risk of enabling bigotry by refusing to stand up to it. The administration needs to stand up, as we have done, against racism and Islamophobia. Palestinians should not have to deal with this or any form of racism. Muslims should not have to deal with Islamophobia.

I can only speak for myself when I say that I will not let this racism and bigotry exist without a fight. I hope Kent State University thinks the same way. SJP is here to tell the story of the oppressed, and we will continue to do so, regardless of the consequences imposed on us by racists and bigots. Take a stand for freedom of religion. Fight oppression and hate. Join SJP in this cause by telling the Palestinian story and educating the Kent community on oppression.

Contact Ghassan Rafeedie at [email protected].