Dear President Benson,
Art, education, sports, diversity, and the high-tech companies in the city are what attract Muslim students to UT Dallas. Same students were saddened, after reading your letter on Oct.16th regarding the current crisis in the Middle East. It was a gut punch for many Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim students who have lost family members and friends in Gaza.
As a leading advocate for justice and mutual understanding and as a natural ally of groups that advocate for justice and human rights in America and all countries around the world, we are compelled to express our disappointment at your letter. It was a one-sided message that failed to acknowledge the suffering of the Palestinians under a brutal occupation. Such a unilateral message can harm not only the unity and wellbeing of students, but also the reputation of the university.
We are NOT writing this letter to justify any violence against civilian people. Like all Americans, we mourn the loss of all innocent lives that have been taken and we denounce violence against all civilians. And we thank you for applauding the university's peaceful environment and emphasizing the importance of mental health and wellbeing. However, we want to question the selective condemnation even though over the past 75 years, the Palestinian people have experienced severe suffering, displacement, and a 15-years of siege and blockade in Gaza, a small city that has a restricted access to basic human needs such as food, clean water, electricity, and medicines. Gaza, a city of a 2.3 million population which half of them are children under 14, was described as the largest open-air prison in the world by Norwegian Refugees Council and other human rights organizations. However, Gaza and Palestine have never earned the support that is shown now for Israel despite the well-documented war crimes against Palestinians of all faiths according to Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights, B’Tselem.
Regarding the recent rising violence in the Middle East, we would like to read a condemnation of Israel’s actions against international law. Israel imposed collective punishment on the Gaza strip captive population of 2.3 millions by cutting necessities and forcing displacement. Additionally, as of 10/15, according to ABC News, Israel’s backlash has killed 724 children and 458 women living in Gaza alone.
We ask you to reconsider your message to the students knowing that many of them have lost relatives and friends in Gaza and Palestine. We ask you to acknowledge the ongoing challenges of prejudice and islamophobia that Palestinian, Arab, Muslim, and Brown students face on and off campus. And finally, we ask you to adopt a more balanced view of the Middle East political and human crisis according to the UN Human Rights experts. Only then, we can create a safe and welcoming learning environment for all.
Since enhancing mutual understanding and building bridges are main parts of our work, we would like to invite you to meet with the Muslim community leaders at one of the local mosques. We also invite you to attend two movie/documentary screenings coming soon in Dallas. First one is “An Act of Worship” which explores the past 30 years of American Muslims experience with Islamophobia, discrimination, and mental health while gently aligning the Muslims’ experience to the political climates. The second one is “A Town Called Victoria” which tells the tragedy of the burned Mosque in Victoria town. Exploring the complexity and nuance of the tragedy, it shows how a biased stance can put on fire while kindness, understanding, and justice can rebuild and heal wounds collectively.
CAIR-TX DFW Team