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US University Faces Backlash After Canceling Muslim Valedictorian's Speech Because Of Pro-Palestine Stance

16.04.2024 23:57

'I am not surprised by those who attempt to propagate hatred. I am surprised that my own university—my home for four years—has abandoned me,' says Asna Tabassum.

The University of Southern California (USC) canceled a planned graduation speech by 2024 valedictorian Asna Tabassum following objections from pro-Israeli groups about her social media posts supporting Palestinians.

The school cited safety concerns Monday with Provost Andrew Guzman saying in a statement that "over the past several days, discussion relating to the selection of our valedictorian has taken on an alarming tenor.

"The intensity of feelings, fueled by both social media and the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, has grown to include many voices outside of USC and has escalated to the point of creating substantial risks relating to security and disruption at commencement," he said.

"After careful consideration, we have decided that our student valedictorian will not deliver a speech at commencement. While this is disappointing, tradition must give way to safety," said the statement.

The decision by USC prompted an immediate reaction from Tabassum, who is a South Asian-American Muslim, and the Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA).

"Although this should have been a time of celebration for my family, friends, professors, and classmates, anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian voices have subjected me to a campaign of racist hatred because of my uncompromising belief in human rights for all," Tabassum said in a statement.

"I am not surprised by those who attempt to propagate hatred. I am surprised that my own university—my home for four years—has abandoned me," she added.

CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush praised Tabassum for being an accomplished student and said the university "cannot hide its cowardly decision behind a disingenuous concern for 'security.'

"The university can, should and must ensure a safe environment for graduation rather than taking the unprecedented step of cancelling a valedictorian's speech," he said.

"The dishonest and defamatory attacks on Asna are nothing more than thinly-veiled manifestations of Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian racism, which have been weaponized against college students across the country who speak up for human rights – and for Palestinian humanity," he added.

The Muslim group demanded USC immediately reverse course, restore her speech and treat all students fairly and justly.

Tabassum studied biomedical engineering and is a student of history who minored in resistance to genocide. -

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