December 10, 2018

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: ICUCME Re: ‘Dangers of Cornell Students Leading Islamophobic Panels’

Print More

To the editor:

On Dec. 3, the Sun published a column by Nima Homami grad attacking our organization, the Ithaca Coalition for Unity and Cooperation in the Middle East. We are a grass-roots anti-racist community organization working to preserve the plurality and diversity of discussions about the Middle East and other related topics, advocating for peace and security for all. Our group is non-partisan and embraces fact-based, respectful dialogue, mutual recognition and cooperation to promote justice.

We have held numerous events on tolerance, including an event on Islamophobia in collaboration with Ithaca’s Islamic Community Outreach Services, as well as discussions on the diversity of communities in the Middle East and “Cleaning the Hate” events where volunteers join together to clean up litter from public spaces.

It’s unfortunate that Homami chose to attack the Cornell and Ithaca College students who volunteered to be on our Nov. 27 panel addressing anti-Semitism on campus. It takes tremendous courage to speak up in public about the anti-Semitism they and other Jewish students have experienced. To criticize them for sharing their experiences with the Ithaca community disrespects their courage.

The film Crossing the Line we screened as part of our Nov. 27 event focuses on the experience of Jewish students on campus and explores where anti-Israel activists “cross the line” into anti-Semitism.  It never addresses Islam at all. The activists shown in the film are aggressive and sometimes violent. To claim as Nima does that film clips of activists calling for the murder of Jews is “Islamophobic,” simply because some of them are Muslim, is an effort to silence discussion on the important issue of anti-Semitism and is disrespectful of our Muslim friends and colleagues.

Nima also claimed that “no opportunity for discussion of the Islamophobia inherent within this film was offered,” when, in fact, we had an hour-long Q&A after the film. No comment or question about Islamophobia in the film was made during this time by Nima or anyone else.

It’s unfortunate that Nima’s misrepresentation of ICUCME coincides with our decision to address anti-Semitism. We do so in response to both the Pittsburgh tragedy and the FBI’s announcement that while anti-Islamic hate crimes declined 11% last year, anti-Semitic crimes increased 37 percent. We invite Cornell Daily Sun readers to visit our website and our Facebook page and participate for themselves in our mission of promoting dialogue and peace, coexistence and cooperation.

Howard Ehrlich

Board member, Ithaca Coalition for Unity and Cooperation in the Middle East