Letter for Fairness and Belonging
From the Desk of:
Imam Ossama Bahloul PhD.
The Resident Scholar of the Islamic Center of Nashville
To the Heads and Administrators of Universities, Schools, Companies, and Programs,
I am writing to raise concerns about the safety and well-being of Muslim students and employees in your community. The prevailing narrative articulated in some statements, which are intended to address the ongoing situation between Israelis and Palestinians, have presented a one-sided perspective showing solidarity and concern only for the Israeli government with no acknowledgment of the ongoing and historical suffering and death of Palestinians. This is an unproductive stance that seems to contradict your institution’s mission and dedication to fairness, and more importantly, it is causing harm to the numerous students, faculty, and staff within your schools who identify as Muslim, Jewish, Palestinian, and Arab (including Arab Christians). Research confirms that these marginalized students are already at an increased risk of peer-to-peer bullying, discrimination, and harassment from school administrators and faculty. When educators and academic institutions make biased and imbalanced public statements on the situation and fail to acknowledge the struggles and humanity of an entire ethnicity, this contributes to a hostile school environment, bullying, harassment, and retaliation.
It is crucial to remember that over the past 75 years, the Palestinian people have experienced immense suffering, displacement, and a 15-year-long inhumane siege and blockade in Gaza, which has been described as “the largest open-air prison” by human rights organizations, all of which led to severely restricted access to basic human needs, like food, clean water, electricity, and medicine. The United Nations has repeatedly deemed Israel’s aggressions in Gaza and the Occupied West Bank as “illegal under international law” and a “substantial obstacle to peace.” According to the UN, the conflict has taken the lives of 23 Palestinians for each Israeli, and over 50% of the population in Gaza is under the age of 15. It is essential for anyone addressing this issue to remember and acknowledge that the Palestinian people have endured decades of dispossession, dehumanization, and annexation under the illegal Israeli occupation. It is alarming that the Palestinian people have been called “human animals” by Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. These humans, who are being indiscriminately bombed by Israel at this very moment, are also worthy of your outrage. Their humanity should be recognized and respected as they face the devastating consequences of violence, including the ongoing aggressive Israeli airstrikes in Gaza.
As Muslims, we believe that each life is precious and deserves equal protection, and I am therefore asking that you recognize the suffering of innocent people in Palestine and Israel, regardless of their faith, culture, or way of life.
I am calling on leadership to adopt a balanced view that ensures a welcoming and safe environment for all students and staff as well as acknowledgment of the ongoing suffering of the two million Palestinian people in Gaza, of which half are children. This suffering started a long time before this week’s escalation but has very rarely been appropriately recognized or covered. It is time for this to change so we can finally truly work towards realizing peace through fairness and justice for all.
I believe that with the involvement of all, we can play an effective role in identifying solutions and we are happy to facilitate a meeting between you and the Muslim and Arab students in your organization with the hope of addressing everyone’s needs.
Imam Ossama Bahloul PhD