Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, urges its members and supporters to join in the protest against an offensive “religious holidays” list promulgated at San Francisco State University. The list, purporting to provide examples of religious events that may be celebrated by members of the University community, included “Israel Independence Day,” despite the fact that the date is not a religious event; of course, more significantly, it is also a date of essential celebration of the Nakba, the colonization of Palestine by Zionist armed forces and the expulsion of over 750,000 Palestinian refugees. Today, those refugees number over seven million and continue to be denied their fundamental right to return home.
In addition, the document also excluded widely known and celebrated Muslim religious holidays such as Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr, despite the fact that both are widely observed by University community members as well as nearly 2 billion Muslims worldwide. Of course, these events do not take place in a vacuum. There is a history of racism and Islamophobia at SFSU that include administration complicity or failure to respond to racist attacks against faculty and students by outside Zionist organizations as well as the failure to properly fund relevant departments like the AMED (Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas) program, in contravention of signed agreements.
Prof. Rabab Abdulhadi has filed suit against the University for discrimination, citing these examples among others in creating an ongoing environment that is both exclusive and repressive to Palestinian and Arab students, faculty and staff as well as other communities of color and marginalized groups. (Al-Awda is the fiscal sponsor of the International Campaign to Support Prof. Rabab Abdulhadi – click here to donate.)
Join Al-Awda and concerned members of the SFSU community to speak out against racism and Islamophobia. SFSU community members will be bringing the issue to the Academic Senate on Tuesday, 19 February at 2 pm PST. Please sign the online petition so that your support can be heard at the meeting!
The undersigned students, staff, faculty, administrators, alumni and concerned community members are outraged at the SFSU administration’s racism and Islamophobia evident in the recent list of so-called “religious holidays” adopted by the university.
SFSU listed “Israel Independence Day” as a religious holiday for Judaism. A religious holiday is a day set aside for religious observance. The 1948 date is no such religious holiday and in fact marks the Nakba — the forcible displacement of over 750,000 Palestinians through terror and paramilitary attacks on civilian villages and cities. Millions of Palestinian refugees have been denied the right to return to their home for nearly 71 years by Israel. A consensus among historians, including Israelis, confirms this history and rejects the nonsensical claims of voluntary departure put forth by Israeli propagandists. Designating Palestinian dispossession as a celebration can only be understood as declaration of anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab racism. Making a religious day out of it is even worse. This is also an affront to SFSU’s Jewish students, faculty, staff and community members who have been outspoken in their refusal to allow Israeli colonialism, occupation and apartheid to speak for them.
To add insult to injury, the same SFSU calendar of religious observances omits Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr, two major holidays celebrated by almost 2 billion Muslims. SFSU has since revised the list though it remains inaccurate and without addressing its pro-Israel bias. The combination of these two elements in one document, and waiting for a whole week to address one element albeit inaccurately while ignoring the other, highlights the atmosphere of discrimination faced by Palestinian, Arab and Muslim students, faculty, staff and community members. Combined with increased policing and harassment of students, faculty and staff, this toxic environment poses a threat to all indigenous communities, communities of color and other marginalized communities engaged in social justice struggles at the university.
This offensive list of religious holidays is not an isolated incident. It comes amid ongoing incidents of racism and Islamophobia at SFSU, including the refusal to take action on the posting of racist materials around campus attacking the General Union of Palestinian Students, other student organizations and faculty members, including Prof. Rabab Abdulhadi; the refusal to respond to racist attacks on the AMED Studies program; the refusal to fund the AMED Studies program; and a number of other major incidents that reflect institutional racism, white supremacy and Islamophobia. In this highly alarming context, the administration’s excuse of having simply borrowed this discriminatory list of holidays from another university rings particularly hollow. As a university that presents itself as a social justice-oriented institution, SFSU should be especially attentive to the needs of the communities it serves.
We demand the following:
1. An immediate, substantive, unequivocal and meaningful apology from the university and a retraction of the circulated document.
2. A full, transparent and open investigation into the circumstances surrounding the creation and distribution of the “religious holidays” document and other incidents of racism and discrimination on campus. This investigation must be independent of the university administration. It must include, but not be limited to, the release of public records related to the drafting of this document and the process involved in its approval and distribution.
3. Comprehensive training on civil rights and discrimination for all SFSU management and administration. The trainers must be jointly selected by the affected communities and must exclude any organizations involved in racist and Islamophobic attacks on targeted communities at SFSU or elsewhere.
4. Reinstate the AMED program’s faculty lines and hire additional tenure track faculty to allow the program to become independent, stable and viable university-wide institute. Further provide appropriate administrative staff and operating budget and respect the program’s right to self-determination. This is an important structural remedy to educate the campus as a whole on issues related to Arab, Muslim and Palestinian communities in coordination with other indigenous communities, communities of color and marginalized communities, including our Jewish sisters and brothers who are equally insulted by the continued attempt of Israel apologists to claim that Israel and Zionism speak for all Jews and own Jewishness.
5. End the SFSU police state that is turning a campus with a history of social justice struggle into a business-oriented model that is unsuitable for a public academic institution and is harmful to students, faculty and staff.