Muslim students at the University of Minnesota were breaking their Ramadan fast on May 7 when they noticed flyers left by the door of the Al-Madinah Cultural Center in Coffman Union.
Created by a far-right political organization called the David Horowitz Freedom Center, the flyers accused multiple student groups and the campus as a whole of being anti-Semitic. The flyers are believed to be part of a national campaign targeting college campuses in the U.S., according to an email sent to the AMCC by Vice President for Equity and Diversity Michael Goh and Interim Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Maggie Towle. The University has condemned the flyers and has offered support to the affected students.
Titled “An Epidemic of Jew Hatred on Campus: The Top Ten Neo-Nazi Incidents,” the flyers condemned a series of events on different university campuses across the nation, which included the University of Minnesota. The text claimed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement shows “a direct parallel to the rhetoric and methods employed by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.” The Southern Poverty Law Center has listed the David Horowitz Freedom Center as an anti-Islam hate group.
Some flyers were also found in the West Bank Skyway and in Willey Hall; they have since been removed.
“This stuff happens all the time,” said Salma Ahmed, outreach coordinator of the Muslim Students Association. “It’s really scary because you would think that on a campus like this that it wouldn’t be, but it is. It’s really very telling when your identities are inherently political, and there isn’t much that you can do to kind of separate your personal politics from your identity.”
The flyers cited a March event hosted by the University’s Department of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies called “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS), Racial Justice & Pinkwashing in the Trump Era: A Workshop.” The flyers called the event “Hamas propaganda” and accused it of demonizing Israel and promoting anti-Semitic, Hamas-funded movements.
The flyers also directly linked Students for Justice in Palestine chapters to Hamas, a militant Islamic Palestinian nationalist movement, and labeled the Muslim Students Association as a terrorist organization funded by the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist political organization.
The flyers said, “This rampant support for the anti-Semitic and genocidal BDS movement on the part of an official university academic department is a flagrant violation of the proper role of an academic institution and reveals the depths of Jew hatred on the University of Minnesota campus.”
According to a joint statement by the Muslim Students Association, Students for Justice in Palestine and the Al-Madinah Cultural Center, in previous years, the same organization had put names of Muslim students serving in leadership positions on flyers, labeling them as terrorists.
“I remember how unsafe students felt,” Ahmed said. “I remember how unsafe even I felt as a Muslim student who was involved in leadership. I felt like ‘What’s going to happen?… Am I going to be labeled as a terrorist?’”
Ahmed said that, following the incident last week, University President Eric Kaler and members of the University of Minnesota Police Department came into the AMCC to offer their solidarity, asking students to let them know what they need.
Student Unions and Activities has also reported the incident to the Bias Response and Referral Network and is in discussion with UMPD about additional security measures for Coffman, according to the email statement from Goh and Towle.
“Please know that your presence on campus is highly valued and your positive contributions to our University community are appreciated,” the email stated. “We are strongly committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of all of our community members, and will continue working diligently to address all forms of hate and bias.”