After the San Diego State College Republicans published a press release on Facebook demanding the San Diego State Muslim Student Association to condemn terrorism, UC San Diego student organizations took the time last week to respond. The Muslim Student Association at UCSD condemned the San Diego State College Republicans’ press release, while the College Republicans at UCSD applauded their cross-town counterparts’ efforts.
On Thursday, August 17, College Republicans at SDSU president Brandon Jones published a press release demanding that the Muslim Student Association at SDSU condemn terrorism after 13 people were killed in an act of terrorism claimed by ISIS in Barcelona. The letter, published on Facebook, contained a variety of directives toward the executive board of the Muslim Student Association, requesting that any members that do not “publicly condemn [the] morning’s acts of radical Islamic terrorism in Spain and those acts similar in nature” resign.
The demands immediately generated a significant backlash; In the week that followed, the Facebook post was viewed over 200,000 times, with nearly three-quarters of the reactions using the “angry” symbol.
The Muslim Student Association at SDSU described the letter as “distasteful” and thanked community members for their solidarity, expressing “support for victims of white supremacy, nationalism, and terrorism” and ending with an Islamic quote urging an end to oppression.
Representatives for the Muslim Student Association at UCSD referred interested parties to the SDSU organization’s statement, but told The Triton:
“We would like to remind everyone that this incident is only a reflection of the divisive, tense, and brutally hurtful times we have found ourselves in as an American society. We urge the student body to shift its focus to the very real issues and oppression which marginalized communities face in our own neighborhoods from violence, to verbal harassment, to unjust policies. We stand by SDSU MSA and would also like to express our support for victims of white supremacy, racism, and terrorism.”
College Republicans at UCSD Chair Jerry Shen came out in support of his SDSU counterpart’s letter.
“We believe their statement is fair and highlights a lot of hypocrisy in politics today,” Shen said. “In the political system, if you are a Republican or any sort of right winger, including Libertarians, Democrats and leftists, they will try to lump [you] in with white supremacists, with Nazis… Being asked to condemn something isn’t too bad, so by asking the MSA to condemn stuff and seeing the reaction, it’s sort of illuminating to how these two different sides are treated.”
One particular sentence in the SDSU group’s request stood out to commenters. “Unfortunately, until radical Islamic terrorism is disavowed by the Muslim Student Organization at SDSU,” Jones wrote in the letter, “we can not move forward in creating an inclusive environment for all students.” Shen said that he did not believe this message was intended to target or intimidate Muslim students in San Diego, but as a type of satire on how Democrats try to paint Republicans by associating them “with people who are obviously not associated with them.”
While Shen states that the College Republicans at UCSD were never asked to condemn the white supremacist rally and violence in Charlottesville, both his club and the College Republicans at SDSU released blurbs distancing themselves from white supremacists, with College Republicans at UCSD condemning “violence on many sides.” When given a chance to directly address the UCSD Muslim community, Shen said this situation is an opportunity for UCSD students to take a clear stance.
“Hey, MSA, show SDSU that UCSD is better than them once again,” Shen said. “Show them that we’re the more intelligent school. I’m not going to demand that you guys disavow what happened in Barcelona, but if you guys did that would show that you’re that much better than SDSU.”
Sixth College fourth-year Ubayd Haq called any comparisons between condemning Barcelona and denouncing Charlottesville a false equivalence.
“Hate crimes against Muslims have risen substantially over the years for perceived similarities to terrorists globally, and refusal to condemn an act can even be life threatening for Muslims,” said Haq, a practicing Muslim. “The SDSU GOP is essentially equating the SDSU MSA’s reluctance to accepting a responsibility to condemn the attack as a justification for discrimination against certain groups of students.”
Both public universities in San Diego have a documented history of tension with Muslim student groups. Last year, conservative writer David Horowitz published posters across the SDSU campus accusing Muslim students of allying themselves with terrorist groups, which named targeted individual students, because of their support of divestment from Israel. The administration’s lack of response triggered protests that trapped former university president Elliot Hirshman in his car for several hours.
The Horowitz Freedom Center, which Horowitz founded, reached out to The Triton earlier this year in an attempt to get press coverage for a series of inflammatory posters “opposing sanctuary campuses” posted around the UCSD campus. Horowitz also earned notoriety during a 2010 visit to UCSD during an Israel Apartheid Week event, when a student asking a question expressed her support for Hezbollah in a clip that has since been circulated millions of times. Horowitz accused the student of wearing a “terrorist neckerchief” as he dismissed her.
“Condemnation of any terrorist attack should be made by all who value human life, but to target a specific group to condemn the actions of a terrorist who violates the tenets of their faith is ignorant,” said Haq, “both of the fact that these terrorists are not related to Muslims by violation of Islamic principles and of the fact that the majority of victims of these so-called Muslim terrorists are Muslims themselves.”
Rohan Grover is a staff writer for The Triton.