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The New Guard

Nearly 50 WashU Professors Sign Statement Defending 9/11 Vandal: American Flag is ‘Symbol of American Imperialism’

By

Julia Johnson

July 19, 2023

Following a Washington University student’s cruel act of theft and vandalism, destroying a flag display put on by WashU College Republicans through Young America’s Foundation’s 9/11: Never Forget Project, students and faculty alike were outraged—but not about the memorial’s destruction.

Instead, a large swath of professors, lecturers, faculty, and students have sided with Fadel Alkilani, the vandal, calling his crime a “protest” and claiming the American flag is “the symbol of American imperialism and violence in the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, and beyond,” in a statement.

In the days after Alkilani’s stunt made headlines, Americans everywhere were devastated, and they made their feelings known to WashU. WashU’s Black & Palestinian Liberation, however, decided to make known their defense of Alkilani, along with many others.

The community statement was published in the WashU student paper, Student Life, and multiple student organizations,  including BPL, have signed onto it. BPL cited the statement in a template letter to professors regarding an upcoming academic strike.

WashU BPL organized the strike for September 15, urging students and teachers to skip class in order to “protest university negligence in protecting marginalized students” in a post on their Instagram.

“We won’t stand by while violent Islamophobic and racist rhetoric makes students feel unsafe. Join us, strike tomorrow and email your professors using the template in our bio. The time to act is NOW. Strike for our safety. Strike in solidarity with marginalized students,” read the Instagram caption.

The statement has racked up almost 2,000 signatures from organizations, students, faculty, and professors.

Nearly 50 of the signatures identify themselves as faculty members. While many remained anonymous, professors who signed the statement with their name include:

Professor of Anthropology Bret Gustafson

Assistant Professor of English Chris A. Eng

Lecturer in English Michael O’Bryan

Professor of History Andrea Friedman

Associate Professor of Women, Gender, Sexuality Shefali Chandra

Professor Neal Patwari, Senior Lecturer Seema Dahlheimer

Professor of Japanese Lang & Literature Rebecca Copeland

Assistant Professor of Psychological & Brain Sciences Calvin Lai

Associate Professor of History Anika Walke

Lecturer in Women, Gender, & Sexuality Trevor Sangrey

Professor of Practice of Japanese Language Ginger Marcus

Assistant Professor of Spanish Miguel A. Valerio

J.H. Hexter Professor in the Humanities in Arts and Sciences Jean Allman

Associate Professor of History Nancy Reynolds

Professor of Spanish Akiko Tsuchiya

Associate Professor of African & African-American Studies Jonathan Fenderson

Associate Professor of Arabic Language & Literature Hayrettin Yucesoy

Lecturer – Junior Fellow (Poetry) Mary Helen Callier

Associate Professor of Pediatrics Tasnim Najaf

Senior Lecturer in English Erin M. Finneran

Associate Professor of Public Health Jean-Francois Trani

Lecturer in College Writing Program Nathaniel Farrell

Faculty Assistant Sam Hunt

According to the statement, Muslim, black, and brown “students continuously suffer due to the Islamophobia perpetuated as a result of 9/11, and their countries have seen war and violence under the symbol of the American flag.” Adding that these students “struggle daily with violent Islamophobia.”

They further state that many Muslim and brown students “do not feel safe on campus,” and demand that WashU “publicly condemn the Islamophobic and racist attacks by Wash. U. students and community members against Fadel Alkilani.”

“Lastly, we stand against any extreme disciplinary action as a consequence of political expression and free speech.”

The “free speech” they refer to is the intentional theft and vandalism of a memorial display commemorating the lives of 2,977 innocent people who were murdered by radical Islamic terrorists.

The statement calls news reporting by YAF on the vandalism and theft a “hostile social media campaign.”

The idea that the reaction to Alkilani’s actions should be punished or condemned more harshly than the crimes themselves is laughable. We expect (unfortunately) such nonsense from campus leftist organizations. The troubling aspect of this situation is just how many professors, faculty, and people in positions of authority over young minds subscribe to the despicable views espoused in this statement and support an act as cruel as desecrating a memorial to thousands of murdered individuals. Let it be known that this was not “free speech” or “political expression.”

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