A message of hate inspires peace

Several student groups met to discuss offensive graffiti found in Dinkytown.

Amber Schadewald

A swastika was found painted on a sidewalk in Dinkytown last week and some students want to make sure it never happens again.

Students from four different faith-based student groups met Friday with intentions to either paint over the graffiti or find someone who could. To their surprise, a few short hours before they planned to meet, the symbol disappeared.

It isn’t clear who painted over the symbol on 15th Avenue between Fifth and Sixth streets, but instead of repainting, the students gathered in the Al-Madinah Cultural Center in Coffman Union to discuss their feelings about the hate crime.

On Sept. 9, a member of the Muslim Student Association noticed the swastika.

By Thursday the symbol had not been removed and that’s when Mariam Hannon, vice president of the Muslim Student Association, notified Hillel, the Jewish student center.

Lauren Palay, president of Hillel, said their group had not heard about the swastika. Palay said she was disappointed by how long it took for someone to clean up the offensive graffiti.

“I feel like people undermined how serious this is – it’s a hate crime,” Palay said.

The symbol was painted in an area heavily trafficked by students.

Chemistry junior Truman Wambach lives in the neighborhood and said he thought the swastika might have been there for almost two weeks.

“I didn’t think much of it – it’s just graffiti,” Truman said.

Speech, language and hearing science senior Lindsey Meyer said she walked over it multiple times and thought it was ridiculous.

“People should respect one another more than that,” she said.

Meyer said she just assumed it was some “stupid college kid,” but she said that is no excuse for the action.

Lindsay Goldner, education sophomore and Hillel member, told the group she was disappointed but not necessarily surprised by the event.

“I hear about crimes like this happening to people of all faiths, not just Jewish,” Goldner said. “I think it happens more than we realize.”

First-year students Alexander Abrams and Marina Tecktiel, both members of Hillel, said they were shocked to hear that something like this happened near their college campus.

“It was the first Saturday of the school year and it just makes me wonder what the rest of my four years are going to be like here,” Abrams said.

More than 30 students attended the discussion, most of whom were members of the Muslim Student Association, Hillel, Al-Madinah, or the Episcopal Student Association. It was the first time representatives from the groups had all met together, something many of them said they wished had happened sooner.

Steve Mullaney, president of the Episcopal Student Association, said it’s a tragedy that a hate crime was what brought them all together, but in the end, it needed to happen.

“This isn’t a Jewish issue or a Christian issue; it’s a human issue,” Mullaney said.

Most of the students in the room agreed and noted that the swastika, a symbol most commonly linked to the Nazi party, has historically been a symbol of hate toward many minorities.

Nandita Rahman, Muslim Student Association event coordinator, stressed the importance of cooperation among minority student groups.

“We need to stand together,” Rahman said.

She said if groups don’t acknowledge problems, the issue will continue to plague campus.

Rahman also said she thought collaboration between the groups could help break common stereotypes about the different faiths and they could all begin informing people about misconceptions.

Historically, religious groups have focused on their differences, but Sami Khwaja, president of the Muslim Student Association, suggested the groups focus more on their similarities.

Khwaja recommended they create a campus coalition against hate crimes.

Abdulaziz Al-Salim, member of the Muslim Student Association and Al-Madinah, said he thought that collectively the groups could do a lot of good for the community.

“We could be a type of (United Nations) of people versus hate crimes,” Al-Salim said.

Abrams said although the painted swastika was disturbing, the swift action by Hillel and other student groups was reassuring.

“I’m really impressed at the way the situation was handled,” Abrams said. “I know now that if something like this happens again, I’ll be taken care of.”