The University of the South in Sewanee held a panel discussion on Islamophobia last month at which objections to Islam were dismissed as prejudice.
The event was hosted by the Muslim Student Association and was called “Understanding Islamophobia in America.”
College campuses around the country have heightened their criticism of Islamophobia – depicted as an irrational fear of Islam and its followers – even as Islamists have increased their attacks on innocents around the world, including in the West. The latest attack came Monday, when at least 22 people were killed in a bombing at a concert in Manchester, England. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack. The attention on Islamophobia has made critical examination of Islam a difficult and risky prospect for college students and faculty.
One of two Muslim guest speakers at the Sewanee event on April 14 was Sabina Mohyuddin, a Tennessee native and Vanderbilt graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering. Mohyuddin serves as board secretary for the American Muslim Advisory Council, a Tennessee advocacy group.
Mohyuddin said at the event that Islamophobia “developed as a consequence of uninformed prejudice and reactions to acts of terrorism,” according to an article in The Sewanee Purple, the student newspaper.
“She concluded her lecture by offering ideas about how to deter Islamophobia, including becoming educated about Islam, inviting Muslim guest speakers, and challenging news meant to incite prejudice,” the article said.
On Sunday, the valedictorian at the University of Notre Dame sounded a similar refrain in his commencement speech.
“Our generation must stand against the scapegoating of Muslims,” said Caleb “C.J.” Pine, who graduated with degrees in Arabic and peace studies.
Pine began his address with words of welcome in Arabic and Chinese. Pine grew up in China, his parents having moved there when he was four months old to work in education. During part of his childhood, he lived in a Muslim village in central China.
Pine made numerous Christian religious references in his speech in cautioning against tougher border controls and security measures.
“Our time at Notre Dame has taken place within a tradition that explicitly follows the deeper love of Jesus that crosses borders,” Pine said. “His is a love that asks: ‘What good is it to gain the world and lose our souls?’ What good is it to have a physical security patrolled by barbed wire? His is a love that says: I came not to be served, but to serve, and to give my life for the freedom of others.”
Pine plans to now work as an intern at the State Department in Washington, D.C., according to a Notre Dame news release.
More than 100 students at Notre Dame walked out of commencement during an address by Vice President Mike Pence. Students said ahead of time that they objected to his attempts as Indiana governor to prevent Syrian refugees from settling in Indiana, as well as his support of President Trump’s travel ban and opposition to sanctuary cities. They also cited Pence’s opposition to gay rights.