More than 150 students, professors, advocates and others packed the Moot Court Room at Maryland Carey Law for an intense, thought-provoking conversation about the rise of Islamophobia in light of recent terrorist events spanning several continents.
“Misconceptions and negative rhetoric are at an all-time high for the Muslim community,” said second-year student Faiza Hasan, who organized “Combating Islamophobia—Constitutional Issues Affecting Muslim Americans and Asian Americans in a Post-9/11 World,” a discussion timed to coincide with the anniversary of Korematsu v. United States, the Supreme Court decision that upheld the internment of Japanese Americans in the interest of protecting national security. “Although now frowned upon, the case still stands as law,” Hasan observed.
“As lawyers, we have a responsibility to speak out when there is talk of—even a suggestion of—depriving those among us of basic human rights,” said Maryland Carey Law Dean Donald Tobin in welcoming participants. “That is why conversations like the one we will hold tonight are so important.”
After hearing briefly from each of the panelists, the discussion ranged from questions about the use of technology in radicalization and hate speech to the constitutionality of excluding minority members for religious reasons, Muslim life before and after 9/11, and the upcoming presidential election.
“ISIS has put tremendous resources into online recruiting,” said Professor Michael Greenberger, director of the university’s Center for Health and Homeland Security. “So there is a lot more online monitoring going on around the world.”
In reply to a question from the audience about discrimination against and bullying of Muslim students post-9/11, Hoda Hawa, director of policy & advocacy at the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said that it was heartbreaking that a 13-year-old student she encountered asked her about internment, especially in light of comments from presidential candidates. “When I speak to young American Muslims around the country, I hear unfortunately the same things. It goes back to where we can find the ‘silver lining’ to change those existing perceptions.”
“Political speech is essential to preserve a democracy,” observed Professor Taunya Lovell Banks. “Which means that sometimes we have to hear some pretty awful stuff like we’re hearing now. But we have to be active enough to counter it.”
“Combating Islamophobia” was sponsored by the Maryland State Bar Association’s Asian American Committee; the Maryland Chapter of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association; the Howard County Muslim Council; the Muslim Students & Scholars Association; the Women’s Bar Association; the Latino Law Student Association; the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association; the Black Law Students Association; and the Jewish Law Student Association.