U. Minnesota student government rejects annual recognition of 9/11, citing in part "potential perpetuation of Islamophobia"

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

An article by Kasey Carpenter (in the Minnesota Republic, a student paper) broke this story, and reports:

On Tuesday, November 10, the Minnesota Student Association (MSA)—the undergraduate student government at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (UMN)—rejected a resolution for a moment of recognition on future anniversaries of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks….

At-large MSA representative and Director of Diversity and Inclusion David Algadi voiced severe criticism of the resolution….

Ms. Carpenter and her editor kindly shared with me a copy of the e-mails that Mr. Algadi sent to them in response to their queries. In the second, he "summarize[d]" his position as "I am well aware that 9/11 was a devastating tragedy but I am also fearful for the welfare of our Muslim and Middle Eastern students on campus, of which I identify with." And his first explained (some paragraph breaks added, emphases in original):

Thank you for reaching out. I was very passionate in my opposition to this resolution and here is why.

First off, I want to say that 9/11 is and always will be a tragedy. I can recognize that. But I think that we need to permit ourselves to dig deeper than just this.

9/11 is often used as reasoning for Islamophobia that takes both physical and verbal forms. The passing of this resolution might make a space that is unsafe for students on campus even more unsafe. Islamophobia and racism … are alive and well. I just don't think that we can act like something like a moment of silence for 9/11 would exist in a vacuum when worldwide, Muslim and Middle Eastern folks undergo intense acts of terrorism around the 11th of September each year, and have since 2001.

In addition there is a particular racial politic present wherein when folks of color do something it becomes a stereotype, when white folks do something it becomes forgotten. Dylann Roof? James Eagan Holmes? Joseph Stack? Timothy McVeigh? When will we start having moments of silence for all of the times white folks have done something terrible?

Seems to me that an organized, coordinated act of war by a foreign entity against the United States, which kills 3000 people—the only such massive act of war to touch U.S. soil in the lives of most Americans—is somewhat different than even what Timothy McVeigh did. But I leave it to our readers to decide for themselves.

Here's the Minnesota Student Association's explanation of the result, which came after the story hit the news:

At the November 10th meeting of the Minnesota Student Association's Forum, a resolution calling for an annual moment of recognition on September 11th failed to pass by a margin of 23-36-3. This resolution was presented to our legislative body, and their votes represent a separate branch from our Executive Board.

Much of the coverage of this resolution has revolved around the discussion of the potential perpetuation of Islamophobia. While this was certainly a valid and unanswered concern of the body, much of the discussion in Forum on this resolution also revolved around the logistics of how a moment of recognition could be implemented on a college campus of thousands and the lack of requested research on if and how this is executed on other campuses. There had been suggestions made in committee meetings during the prior week on research and execution steps, but none were included in the version presented to Forum.

There were many Forum members that voiced support for holding a moment of recognition for the victims of 9/11, but given the brevity of the resolution and lack of action steps, they didn't know how this could be done. The author did not have answers for these questions, and given that a resolution in this body is inherently a call for action, many members were dissatisfied by the lack of action attached to such an important topic.

MSA's Speaker of the Forum and President have already reached out to the author and would be happy to work with him on crafting a resolution to be re-presented at the next Forum.

I likewise leave it to our readers to consider the merits of this explanation. The Minnesota Republic story also notes that many people in the MSA supported the resolution, and of course the vote reflects that, though ultimately—at least when the initial vote took place—they were unable to persuade a majority of their colleagues.