To: University Community
From: President Ralph Kuncl and the President’s Cabinet
Date: December 9, 2015
Islamophobia – the unfounded fear, hatred of, or outright prejudice against the religion of Islam and/or its Muslim followers – has been present and increasing in the United States for more than a decade. Following last week’s terrorist attack in San Bernardino, inflamed by the irresponsible rhetoric of some candidates in the U.S. presidential campaign, and with the international reaction to this rhetoric, we believe it is especially important in this moment to combat fear and prejudice both within our University and wherever it may occur around us.
Where better to do this than in a community of higher learning that believes strongly in the core values of pluralism and acceptance? History tells us what happens to innocent human beings when fear and intolerance take over our rational minds and our emotions.
What is the University Community doing to recognize and mitigate prejudice? What exactly do we believe in?
- Islam, the world’s second-largest religion, is a religion that promotes peace and nonviolence. Unfortunately, there may be texts in the Koran, the Islamic sacred book, which are misinterpreted by some radical adherents, as well as by non-Muslims inclined to embrace prejudiced beliefs, as promoting certain violent actions. But those are misinterpretations and not the interpretations or beliefs of mainstream Islam. The overwhelming majority of Muslims around the world are not only peaceful themselves but are shocked and horrified by the violence being committed in the name of their religion.
- Muslims – and others from Southeast Asia or the Middle East who are assumed to be Muslim – understandably are concerned about unfair stereotyping and retaliatory actions. We care for all of our students and all members of our Community. Derived from the first principles of diversity and inclusiveness that unite us, we expect that students, faculty, and staff will not engage in unfair stereotyping and hurtful behavior. We further hope and expect that our Community members will be allies and advocates for those who are targeted by discrimination. We show our care and compassion when we oppose discrimination and when we speak up against prejudice.
- On December 3rd, the day after the attack in San Bernardino, the University held a vigil for the victims of the San Bernardino shootings.
- On December 6th, a large number of individuals from the University Community participated in the Interfaith Memorial at the Islamic Community Center of Redlands.
- Tonight (December 9th) at 7:00 p.m., the University is hosting a live taping of Southern California Public Radio station KPCC’s “AirTalk.” John Walsh, University Chaplain and faculty member, will be a panelist for this special discussion on “Tragedy and Community in San Bernardino.” The panel may touch on the topic of Islamophobia, and its main focus will be how all of us can cope and heal after this most recent tragedy.
- On Friday, December 11th at 12:30 p.m., the University’s Middle Eastern Students Association (MESA) is doing a Walk for Peace, which will begin at Memorial Chapel and last approximately 30 minutes. Despite the end-of-semester time pressures and obligations we are all feeling, we encourage as many people as possible to join MESA in demonstrating our Community’s commitment to peace and acceptance.
- On Monday, December 14th, 4:30-5:30 p.m., the Religious Studies Department, Chaplain’s Office, and Campus Diversity & Inclusion (CDI), will host a conversation on ways we can combat Islamophobia. The conversation will take place in CDI on the Redlands campus.
- In January, the Chaplain’s Office, CDI, and Student Leadership & Involvement, in collaboration with the President’s Office, will conduct a forum on Islamophobia to promote further dialogue and learning on our campus. Please look for details about this forum early next month.
What else can we do? We encourage all in our Community to do at least two things right now:
- If you witness any hateful or discriminatory behavior, please do not remain silent. Report any offending behavior to Public Safety (909-748-8888) or Student Life (909-748-8053), on the Redlands campus.
- Participate in efforts to promote education and to reduce fear and prejudice.