To the editors:
President Summers’ recent speech at Memorial Church brings to light important concerns about the presence of anti-Semitism on campus and abroad. An article written on Sept. 19 in the Harvard Crimson (News, “Summers Says Anti-Semitism Lurks Locally”) juxtaposes President Summers’ remarks on questionable fundraising by Harvard student organizations with a Nov. 2000 fundraiser held by the Harvard Islamic Society (HIS). While we are not certain of the precise intent of Summers’ remarks, this juxtaposition constitutes an implicit and perhaps unintended attack on the intentions and integrity of HIS. The intent of the Nov. 2000 fundraiser was to aid humanitarian relief efforts in Palestine. In addition to Holy Land Foundation, which at the time was officially recognized as a tax-exempt charitable organization, several other groups were simultaneously considered, and ultimately the dinner’s proceeds were donated to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Society. In short, the Harvard Islamic Society has never sought to raise funds “for organizations that were later found to support terrorism.” HIS strongly condemns state and non-state sponsored violence against civilians, and a desire to provide humanitarian aid to innocent people cannot be labeled anti-Semitic.
Thus the effect, if not the intent, of the Crimson article is to misrepresent the Harvard Islamic Society by associating it with something as reprehensible as anti-Semitism. To unfairly characterize the intentions and activities of any Harvard student group is both divisive and hurtful. Certainly, the suggestion that any group of students at Harvard has contributed to racism or lawlessness is a serious matter, and such accusations must not be made carelessly. Additionally, the prerogative of student organizations to voice legitimate support or protest should not be stifled by reflexive accusations of anti-Semitism. We reiterate our deep concern about anti-Semitism and all forms of racism. As Muslims, we are acutely aware of an increase in racism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia in recent times. One cannot fail to notice the recent upturn in attacks on Islam, Muslim organizations, and Muslim citizens in the United States and Europe. The parallels between anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim sentiments and practices are becoming increasingly apparent. It is thus the hope of HIS that a shared understanding of prejudice as it relates to Jews, Muslims, and other minorities can serve as a unifying rather than divisive factor.
Wasim W. Quadir ’03
Sept. 23, 2002
The writer is president of the Harvard Islamic Society.