Skip to content

COMMENTARY: Statement from CILRU Faculty Board

Faculty members of the Center for Islamic Life at Rutgers University (CILRU) respond to vandalism and mass arrests occurring on college campuses across the nation.  – Photo by Evan Leong

We were shocked and troubled, though not entirely surprised, to learn that vandals had broken into the Center for Islamic Life at Rutgers University (CILRU) on April 10, the morning of Eid al-Fitr, one of the most important holidays of the Islamic calendar.

The perpetrator smashed windows and equipment, destroyed sacred pieces of Qur'anic art and stole select items, including a Palestinian flag.

On Monday, we learned that the authorities had arrested Jacob Beacher, a 24-year-old man, who was charged with one count of intentional or attempted obstruction of religious practice and one count of making false statements to federal authorities. 

At this moment, we are witnessing large-scale protests on college campuses across the country by brave and courageous students against the genocide in Gaza. We are also watching in horror as college presidents and administrators deploy police violence against peaceful protest, preventing students from exercising the expression of their First Amendment rights.

We would strongly urge the Rutgers administration to avoid such draconian and escalatory tactics against our students, as this endangers both the students and our respective campus communities far more than the protestors themselves.

Indeed, actions like these stand in complete contradiction to the role of our universities as spaces of learning and open exchange. The student protestors are diverse, comprised of individuals from all racial and religious backgrounds, including Muslim and Jewish students, and are united against the mass atrocities and human rights violations perpetrated against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

We are scholars who study Islam, Muslim cultures and societies, the Middle East, Islamophobia, civil rights and the myriad of topics and approaches that shape the vast scope of these fields.

As instructors, researchers and community members here at Rutgers, we know firsthand the fear that our Muslim, Arab and Palestinian students have experienced for the last seven months. This fear arises from orientalist and racist conflations of Islam and "terrorism," grounded in stereotypes mainstreamed in U.S. society over the past two decades. Yet such assumptions are nothing new.

Indeed, Rutgers has long been the site of such Islamophobic and anti-Muslim bigotry, as occurred with the baseless New York Police Department surveillance of Muslim students at Rutgers in 2012. We firmly reject such assumptions as unfounded, ahistorical and antithetical to our work as scholars and educators.

As faculty, we have watched in dismay as students and faculty are punished, targeted and doxxed for expressing empathy or support for the people of Palestine.

We have experienced firsthand how Rutgers administration routinely ignores our perspectives, as well as our scholarship and expertise on these matters, and dismisses the experiences and concerns of Muslim, Arab and Palestinian students, in other words, our CILRU students. Administration disproportionately punishes them for their principled, and at times, deeply personal responses to the horrors in Palestine.

This campaign has created an environment, both at Rutgers and across the country, where any public solidarity with Palestinians is assumed to be suspicious and dangerous to others – all of which has been confirmed over and over again as we watch the campus protests this week. 

As the work of the late Palestinian American scholar Edward Said teaches us, racist and orientalist Iogics of anti-Muslim, anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian racism run extremely deep in this country and are fundamentally intertwined with racist logics of anti-Blackness and xenophobia. 

These logics continually produce profound distortions, inaccuracies and a willful ignorance around how we, as Americans, view Islam, the Middle East and current events in Israel and Palestine. 

As members of CILRU's Faculty Board, our role is to amplify our students' concerns and support their needs. We view the attack on CILRU as an expression of a broader pattern of anti-Muslim, anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian violence that has occurred at Rutgers, as well as throughout U.S. society, especially amongst those in positions of power. 

Such a disparate power dynamic that unfairly demonizes Muslim, Arab and Palestinian students is especially egregious because Rutgers boasts one of the highest populations of Muslim and Arab students in the country, who are an integral part of what University President Jonathan Holloway has named Rutgers' "beloved community."

Yet superficial acknowledgment of our "diversity" from the administration is not enough. In the aftermath of the attack on CILRU, and as student protests mount across the country, we call on the Rutgers administration to unequivocally support CILRU's mission and commit to engaging its Muslim, Arab and Palestinian students as integral to our beloved community.

To this end, we ask that the administration:

  1. Proactively address the rampant anti-Muslim, anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian sentiment at Rutgers through specific programming in its diversity, equity and inclusion strategy.

  2. Create an Arab-American cultural center where students, faculty and staff can gather to learn about and celebrate their heritage, feel empowered and feel safe while doing so.

  3. Support existing faculty by providing additional resources to programs and centers that support our Muslim and Arab students, as well as CILRU's mission and programming.

  4. Create a permanent interfaith space on campus to meet CILRU and other faith communities' programming, event and prayer space needs.

  5. Hire additional faculty in the fields of Islamic and Muslim Studies, Middle East Studies, Arab American Studies and Palestine Studies.

We welcome dialogue and engagement with the Rutgers administration to work toward these goals, and to ensure the safety of our students, colleagues and larger campus community.

The CILRU Faculty Board includes:

Sylvia Chan-Malik, an associate professor in the Department of American Studies

Maya Mikdashi, an associate professor in the Department of Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Sahar Aziz, a professor in the Department of Law

Sandy Russell Jones, an associate teaching professor in the Department of History

Adnan Zulfiqar, associate professor in the Department of Law

Ousseina Alidou, a professor in the Department of African, Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Literatures

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

YOUR VOICE | The Daily Targum welcomes submissions from all readers. Due to space limitations in our print newspaper, letters to the editor must not exceed 900 words. Guest columns and commentaries must be between 700 and 900 words. All authors must include their name, phone number, class year and college affiliation or department to be considered for publication. Please submit via email to by 4 p.m. to be considered for the following day's publication. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

Related Articles

Join our newsletterSubscribe