Yale groups combat anti-Muslim sentiment

Students taped a video Sunday, modeled after will.i.am’s “Yes We Can,” to raise awareness of religious intolerance.
Students taped a video Sunday, modeled after will.i.am’s “Yes We Can,” to raise awareness of religious intolerance. Photo by Jacob Albert.

When Valarie Kaur LAW ’11 first heard about Ahmed Sharif, the New York City cab driver who was attacked Aug. 24 by a drunken passenger for being Muslim, she did not know how to respond.

“We are witnessing a wave of hate crimes across the country, not fully being covered on the news,” she said. “This [situation] is becoming insidious, life-threatening, and serious, but I found myself in a paralysis.”

Within a week, Matthew Matera LAW ’11 came to her room to talk about their mutual anger, and an idea was born. The pair now coordinates Common Ground, a nationwide campaign to combat and raise awareness of religious intolerance. The group joins other Yale organizations, including Jews and Muslims at Yale, the Muslim Student Association, and J Street U (a national organization for Middle East peace), that have independently planned responses to a recent perceived spike in intolerance toward Muslims.

Common Ground has yet to make a website or issue a press release, but the organization already has more than 70 volunteers across the country, some of them Yale undergraduates. Kaur said the group will ask student leaders to host dialogues in schools across the country and will provide schools with “toolkits” to guide discussion.

Students filmed a video, directed by Jacob Albert ’11, for the group Sunday night in which members of the Yale community read from Common Ground’s charter.

Kaur, herself a Sikh, is no stranger to anti-religious sentiment in the United States. After a Sikh man her family knew was murdered for wearing a Turban soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, she went across the country recording stories of violence and vandalism. Kaur spent the next five years filming what would eventually become “Divided We Fall,” the first feature-length documentary on crimes against Sihks, Muslims, and Arab-Americans after the Sept. 11 attacks. The film went on to win awards at the ReelWorld Film Festival of Toronto and the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles.

Despite extensive research for her film, Kaur said she was still surprised by the recent controversy surrounding Park 51, an Islamic community center proposed for a site two blocks from Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan.

“I knew that Islamophobia was a deep part of our cultural consciousness,” she said. “I did not expect that it would become so mainstream, as it has in the so-called ‘Ground Zero mosque.’ ”

At the same time, three other Yale organizations are also mobilizing on the issue. Jews and Muslims at Yale, which was founded in the wake of Sept. 11 but became inactive in years since, recently renewed its efforts to “create dialogues and build connections” between the two religious groups, said JAM co-president Faisal Hamid ’13. The group will co-sponsor an event with the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot to discuss public displays of religion in secular countries, said Hamid, who added that the theme is especially important in light of the resistance to the Park 51 center in New York.

The group has collaborated with the Muslim Students Association, which is also beginning to plan events to address current events, said MSA Political Action Chair Mustafa Al-Alusi ’13. He said possible events could include a screening of Kaur’s film and a panel discussion of the Aug. 24 attack.

Al-Alusi, who could not recall having ever heard of incidents involving anti-Islam sentiment on Yale’s campus, said Yale’s Muslim community itself has not made as many calls for action in light of recent events as other groups.

“We seem pretty far detached from all of this [recent news in New York],” he said. “The effect the news has is greater on other people than us here; we’re still kind of in a bubble.”

But some students are looking outside the relatively accepting campus community.

J Street U, a national organization primarily led by progressive Jewish students to promote Middle East peace, has released a pledge, entitled “Stand Strong Against Islamophobia,” said Ben Alter ’11, co-president and founder of the Yale branch.

In the coming weeks, Alter said he hopes to circulate the document (which protests Park 51 opposition and threats of Qur’an burnings) for signatures. He also participated in Sunday night’s filming for the Common Ground video.

“As Jews we know the dangers of hatred and violence directed against religions and ethnic minorities,” he said, “and for us to stand idly by while other groups are denigrated, persecuted and harassed would be criminal.”

Correction: Sept. 8, 2010

An earlier version of this article mistakenly quoted a premature draft of the group Common Ground’s charter, which the News received from the director of a film promoting Common Ground. The finalized copy of the group’s charter will be posted on Common Ground’s website today.


  • YaleMom

    God bless you little children! Why oh why is there so much hate? Bless us and save us, Mrs. Davis!

  • Arafat

    Ishaq 262 – “Some Muslims remained friends with the Jews, so Allah sent down a Qur’an forbidding them to take Jews as friends. From their mouths hatred has already shown itself and what they conceal is worse”

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>< <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

    Qur'an (1:5-7) - "Show us the straight path, The path of those whom Thou hast favoured; Not the (path) of those who earn Thine anger nor of those who go astray" This is a prayer that Muslims are supposed to repeat each day. "Those who earn Thine anger" specifically refers to Jews and "those who go astray" refers to Christians (see Bukhari (12:749)).


    Qur’an (3:28) – “Let not the believers Take for friends or helpers Unbelievers rather than believers: if any do that, in nothing will there be help from Allah: except by way of precaution, that ye may Guard yourselves from them…” This last part means that the Muslim is allowed to feign friendship if it is of benefit. Renowned scholar Ibn Kathir states that “believers are allowed to show friendship outwardly, but never inwardly.”

  • Arafat

    I apologize for the formatting problem in my previous comment. Hopefully the following comment will be formatted better:

    Ishaq 262 – “Some Muslims remained friends with the Jews, so Allah sent down a Qur’an forbidding them to take Jews as friends. From their mouths hatred has already shown itself and what they conceal is worse”


    Qur’an (1:5-7) – “Show us the straight path, The path of those whom Thou hast favoured; Not the (path) of those who earn Thine anger nor of those who go astray” This is a prayer that Muslims are supposed to repeat each day. “Those who earn Thine anger” specifically refers to Jews and “those who go astray” refers to Christians (see Bukhari (12:749).

    Qur’an (3:28) – “Let not the believers Take for friends or helpers Unbelievers rather than believers: if any do that, in nothing will there be help from Allah: except by way of precaution, that ye may Guard yourselves from them…” This last part means that the Muslim is allowed to feign friendship if it is of benefit. Renowned scholar Ibn Kathir states that “believers are allowed to show friendship outwardly, but never inwardly.”

  • FailBoat

    Acting as though opposition to the Ground Zero mosque is rooted in Islamophobia rather than in an opposition to what the Cordoba Initiative stands for betrays the shallow thinking of the left.

    **Imam Rauf, in his own words:**
    On Al Qaeda: “We tend to forget in the West that the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than al Qaeda has on its hands of innocent non Muslims”
    On 9/11: “the United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.”
    On whether or not Hamas is a terrorist organization: “The issue of terrorism is a very complex question.”
    On Bin Laden: “in the most direct sense, Osama bin Laden is made in the USA”

    No one has suggested that Rauf doesn’t have the *right* to build the mosque. The question is – should we support him in his endeavor, or oppose him? Yale students have protested against individuals including Tony Blair and George Bush in the past. But do they seek to silence Blair and Bush? No – of course not. Their protests demonstrate their opposition to the words and actions of public figures.

    These protests are rooted in opposition to the man and his mission, but they do not stray into Islamophobia. On the other hand, I am offended for Muslims everywhere when the media tries to hold up Rauf as an example of a “moderate” Muslim, as if Islam must be graded on a curve.

  • SecularStudent

    @Arafat and Failboat

    You can find just as damning quotations from the old and new testament. Yet I think in those cases you’d call out for something like historical considerations, or not taking anything out of context.

    To failboat, I’ve heard more hateful things come of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell’s mouths, yet you’d hardly see an uproar. It’s not at ground zero. It’s not a mosque. If you think that this is a legitimate issue that would be anything near the size it is if it weren’t for islamaphobia, well then I guess you’d just be an average ignorant member of the right.

    And you do realize Imam Rouf is right about the whole Osama muslim blood thing, right?

  • yaylie

    @SecularStudent in re Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, you might be right. In re “damning quotations from the old and new testament,” bring it on.

    Here’s another quotation straight from this so called holy book:

    They wish you would disbelieve as they disbelieved so you would be alike. So do not take from among them allies until they emigrate for the cause of Allah . But if they turn away, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them and take not from among them any ally or helper.(Quran 4:89)

    Oh, and have you heard about how Muhammad married a 9 year old girl and had sex with her when she was 12? I’m not making this up. Google it.

  • SecularStudent

    I’m not in the business of criticizing specific religions. My point is all religions are subject to honest and open criticism. Yet yours seems to be somewhat tunnelvisioned.

    Anyone arrogant enough to reject the verdict of the judge or of the priest who represents the LORD your God must be put to death. Such evil must be purged from Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:12 NLT)

    “If a man lies with a male as with a women, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives.” (Leviticus 20:13 NAB)

    All who curse their father or mother must be put to death. They are guilty of a capital offense. (Leviticus 20:9 NLT)

    and of course kill an entire town if there is one worshipper of a [false god][1].

    Any justification or defense you use, see if it applies to the Koran.

    [1]: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy+13%3A13-19&version=NLT

    And what does Muhhamed have to do with this at all? You can find any criticism of any religion. This hardly seems relevant when discussion religious discrimination. Joseph Smith was a known fraud! Let’s go protest Mormon buildings now? Please. This is irrelevant and you’re just changing the subject to make up for the fact that you have no ground to stand on for your opposition to a community center.

  • Hieronymus

    I always enjoy it when folks slap down the Torah with a smug “A-HA!” as if Jews are–or ever *were*–scrambling about stoning people, murdering cartoonists in the name of YHWH, blowing themselves up… (I won’t even bother pointing out how, for Christians, Yeshua more or less nullified “The Law” of the Old Testament…)

    Many Muslims and their fellow-travelers will cry out that infidels take verses from al-Quran out of context, but then do the very same thing to the Torah (good luck finding objectionable directives from Yeshua, btw). Why is it silly to take the Torah out of context?

    Because Jews now, as they did 3000 years ago, knew that (among other things) draconian Levitican punishments couldn’t be meted out unless there was a great preponderance of evidence (as well as two completely unimpeachable witnesses). They also knew and know that things recorded in the Torah may well have been *inspired* by God but were subject to human interpretation, and so required extraordinary care in being used as a day-to-day legal code.

    On the other hand, we regularly hear of and observe religiously motivated acts of hatred, often **supported** by religious authority (can anyone say “fatwa on Salman Rushdie” five times fast? Anyone hear of Theo van Gogh? Anyone cruise YouTube for *actual footage* of the stoning of Muslim women? Google it: I dare ya! I **double-dog** dare ya!)

    Also: A cross-post from [Sargent][1], but applicable here as well:

    **The taming and domestication of religion is one of the unceasing chores of civilization.**
    [In other words: Jews and Christians, as a rule, do not now–if they ever did–stone or otherwise kill/maim/mutilate/attack transgressors; the same canNOT be said for Islam.]

    A similar but more eloquent line of thought–from [Slate][2], no less!

    “‘Some of what people are saying in this mosque controversy is very similar to what German media was saying about Jews in the 1920s and 1930s,’ Imam Abdullah Antepli, Muslim chaplain at Duke University, told the New York Times. Yes, we all recall the Jewish suicide bombers of that period, as we recall the Jewish yells for holy war, the Jewish demands for the veiling of women and the stoning of homosexuals, and the Jewish burning of newspapers that published cartoons they did not like.”

    [1]: http://www.yaledailynews.com/news/2010/sep/07/sargent-double-standards/
    [2]: http://www.slate.com/id/2266154/?from=rss

  • SecularStudent

    Again, a discussion of Islam’s place in the Western world is an important one, but isn’t relevant to the topic of the Mosque at hand.

    While I agree, criticism of Islam is not tantamount to Islamaphobia, too much of the current criticism undoubtedly stems from it. As does the opposition to this community center.

  • theantiyale

    If one believes they are truly receiving COMMANDS (not suggestions or advice) from Beyond (capital B) either through the text of a book or the interpretation of a scholar (secular or holy), they are in BIG TROUBLE. And , maybe, so are we.


    [link text][1]

    [1]: http://thantiyale.blogspot.com “GOD (Genome’s Obscure Distributor)”

  • Arafat

    Secular Student,

    Muslims have the legal right to build their God-forsaken mosque, but they do not have the right to practice their God-forsaken religion there; or at least as it is practiced anywhere where Islam has been firmly established.

    Anywhere where Islam is firmly established we find innumerable examples of unconstitutional behavior. Killing homosexuals is not uncommon; treating non-Muslims as second or third class citizens or forcing them to convert to Islam, or killing them; treating women like dirt, not allowing anyone to speak freely, or to allow the press any freedoms; honor killings; female genital mutilation; etc…All these barbaric customs are enshrined in the Koran and Hadiths and that is why wherever we see Islam we easily find innumerable examples of these barbaric unconstitutional customs.

    Now if anyone thinks Islam in America will be different then they’re kidding themselves. All Western nations have signed onto the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This Declaration guarantees equality to all. It’s interesting to note that not one single Islamic country honors this Declaration. In fact Islamic countries formulated the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights as an answer to the UDHR. The Cairo Declaration does NOT honor the equality of all people or of religions other than Islam. We can focus a laser-like beam on the GZM while ignoring everything else about Islam, but if we do we will certainly pay the price sometime down the road.

  • SecularStudent

    And Arafat clearly demonstrating his ignorance, because there have clearly been no instances of muslims living and practicing their religion peacefully.

    Thanks for demonstrating why this article exists.

  • theantiyale


    Hanging witches in Salem Massachussetts in the name of a Protestant God was any better than the atrocities of other religions cited here?

    Ditto Christian preachers using *Old* and *New Testament* texts to justify the most barbaric sin in human history, the Constitutionally sanctioned sale of human beings in America (*Dred Scott v. Sandford*: 1857) for over a century: Was that any better than the several other religious extremist commands cited in the posts above?

    The Roman Catholic Church’s subjugation of women to the sexual “needs” of males (divorce, abortion and contraception are all sins the last time I looked) is any better than the abuses against women cited in posts above?

    Humbug, balderdash, tommyrot.

    Paul Keane
    *M. Div. ’80,*

    M.A., M.Ed.

    [link text][1]

    [1]: http://theantiyale.blogspot.com “GOD (Genome’s Obscure Distributor)”

  • Hieronymus

    Slavery, ah slavery! I love to hear the outraged rage against slavery!

    Where, oh where is slavery today, and who is fighting against it, pray tell? You already know the answer: slavery is legal in certain Muslim lands, and “tolerated” under more (and ignored in certain godless lands, say, Eastern European human trafficking).

    But why let reality obscure perceived wisdom?

    Yes, let us all engage in moral relativism; indeed, I prefer proactive relativism, e.g., given that Islam allows polygamy, FGM, stoning and, heck, slavery *today*, right **now**, I move that we amend our legal code to allow it, all in the spirit of “tolerance.” Yes, that’s the ticket!

  • theantiyale

    [link text][1]

    And was the slavery you speak of Hieronymus sanctioned by the highest judicial body in any or all of the lands in question? And did that judicial body have as its Constitutional FIRST PREMISE “All men are created equal”? And is that why Chief Justice Taney had to make slaves the equivalent of FURNITURE to be sold at public auction to the highest bidder?

    And did that other slavery you speak of result in the wholesale RAPE for a hundred years (under the sanctimonious umbrella of Biblical texts) of female property by their WHITE MALE owners?

    Your satire is stale on this issue and a bit self–intoxicated.


    [1]: http://theantiyale.blogspot.com “GOD (Genome’s Obscure Distributor)”

  • Arafat

    Slavery and Islam. Read the following link to better understand why slavery is still legal in several Islamic countries and why it is practiced — despite denials — in many Islamic countries.


  • theantiyale

    Slavery “being legal” in countries outside the USA is NOT the same as a U.S. Supreme Court decision (*Dred Scott v. Sandford* (1857) certifying that African Americans are NOT HUMAN BEINGS, but are instead property which can be bought, sold, and retrieved when escaped.

    The Problem in America is NOT Islamophobia or anti-Semitism or racial prejudice.

    **The Problem in America is, and has been, XENOPHOBIA, usually originating in **WHITE PROTESTANT MALE enclaves**, with rare exceptions (Fr. Coughlin; Sen. McCarthy ):**

    – Salem Witch Hunts (and Trials)
    – NINA (No Irish Need Apply)
    – No Coloreds Served
    – No Jewish Members
    – Anti-Communist Blacklists
    – Ivy-league Jewish Quotas
    – No Women Admitted
    – Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell

    [link text][1]

    [1]: http://theantiyale.blogspot.com “GOD (Genome’s Obscure Distributor)”

  • FailBoat

    I don’t get it. I’m a conservative, but not white. Where do I fall on the spectrum of villains that Paul Keane will blame for The Problem In America?

  • AntiZionist

    More predictable Muslim-bashing from Arafat and his (or is it her?) lot of hysterics and Zionist apologists.

    You talk as though Zionists and Christians have never perpetrated any atrocity without finding scriptural justification. You quote the Qur’an selectively, but you do so in the hope that no one will cast a glance at the [Talmud][1] (and I’ve even linked you to an *apologist* who awkwardly and ineffectively attempts to deny the inherent racism and Jewish Supremacist dogma espoused in the text) or the Torah.

    BETTER STILL, how about a look at what past Prime Ministers of Israel have said about America being little more than a puppet state for the Zionist agenda?

    Would you really have us believe, Arafat, through your smoke and mirrors and fingerpointing at Islam, that Jewish aggression is only defensive? That the Jews do not, in fact, believe themselves to be “God’s Chosen People-” a *master race,* if you will-and that, as such, find themselves justified in the continuing dispossession, displacement, and torture of the Arab people, NAY, of all Muslim people?

    You want to talk about slavery? How about the slavery of usury: the vile and contemptible wage-slavery of the money-lenders and creditors? How about the very real white slave trade perpetuated by Zionist criminals kidnaping young European girls for export as prostitutes?

    You want to talk about crime? How about the Irgun and the Stern Gang? How about Mossad’s black operations and assassination of foreign nationals on soil far from their “Israeli” homeland? How about the JDL and their gang of thugs, who, incidentally, are considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. Government?

    Spare us your attempts to equate Islam with terrorism. “Israel” is the biggest terrorist organization in the world. If you invade anyone’s country, torture their citizens, rape their women and children, and rob them of their right to exist as a people with a homeland of their own, you can bet every shekel you’ve got that they are going to assert their right to exist by whatever means are necessary.

    “Israel” is the cause of these conflicts. “Israel” is the agitator and the source of American conflicts in the middle-east. The U.S. needs to get the Zionist war machine off its tit and let them reap what they have sown.

    [1]: http://www.angelfire.com/mt/talmud/“Talmud”

  • theantiyale

    Are you xenophobic? Apparently you are afraid of people like me who you seem to think are
    “blamers” and who see “villains”. I see not villains but xenophobes: people who are afraid of foreigners or foreign things (not nationality- “foreign”, but the no -previous first-hand- knowledge-of “foreign”.). I don’t think I used either “blame” or “villain” in my post. I simply see people like The Rev. Book Burner in Florida who believes that somehow an inanimate object without volition can be “evil”(” an evil book” are his words).

  • Hieronymus

    Xenophobia. Too funny. The U.S. is the most successful integrator of disparate peoples and cultures on the face of the planet. Japan? Saudi? Norway?! Canada?!! Not so much. (Canada, after years of pooh-poohing the U.S. for its “racial tensions,” now suffers radical growth in “white power” and other racialist movements in response to the recent influx of “less desirable” populations such as Sri Lankans, Cambodians, and Vietnamese. (In the past, Canada required advanced education and significant personal assets prior to immigration.)

    A North African can live in France for years, indeed, *generations,* but will never, never, **never** become “French.” I know a man, a recent immigrant from Eastern Europe, who gave up his advanced degrees and engineering career to come to the U.S. in 2000. He now owns a pizza shop. His English is getting pretty good. He *loves* America–and he knows and I know that he is completely, 100%, fully American (indeed, more American than many who were born here). I could repeat the same story using any of my Uzbek, Pakistani, Haitian, or Sudanese friends.

    Xenophobia. Too funny!

  • theantiyale

    Was H. raised in a bubble? Or a time capsule? Does his truclulence, like the ever increasing embroidery of a spider, define his universe?

    The contrived outrage and amusement of his persona tastes a trifle sour: A bit like Christopher Hitchens (before the Fall) .


  • Peasant

    Choice title: “Yale groups combat anti-Muslim sentiment”. Combative seekers of tolerance?

    Reading the above comments, it seems the common ground is that all have a pretty common perception of what are the wrong-doings of humanity.

    It may be that if a group has sincere wishes to not be hated, they should work on renouncing those deeds that are commonly known to be ugly and to show the change in action. Like any relationship, it may not be enough to expect changed reaction from others without working on internal change.