Taking a stand against hate

In a defiant statement against a rising wave of Islamophobia, nearly 100 people gathered late Tuesday on UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza to declare: “Hate will not win.”

campus community holds signs "stand against hate" and "end white supremacy"

Some 100 people gathered late Tuesday, March 19, on UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza in remembrance of the 50 people killed last week after a gunman opened fire at two mosques in New Zealand.  (UC Berkeley photo by Hulda Nelson)

During an hour-long remembrance honoring the 50 people killed last week when accused gunman Brenton Tarrant opened fire at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, members of Berkeley’s Muslim Student Association read aloud the names of the slain. The solemn moment was followed by sunset (Maghrib) prayers.

“The main issues here are white supremacy and Islamophobia,” said Saneeha Shamshad, a junior transfer student majoring in media studies. “We have to be vigilant. These issues aren’t going away.”

According to a just-released report by the Anti-Defamation League, most terrorist attacks in the United States in 2017 were thought to be motivated by right-leaning ideologies. Out of 65 incidents, 37 were tied to racist, anti-Muslim, homophobic, anti-Semitic, fascist, anti-government or xenophobic motivations.

(UC Berkeley photo by Hulda Nelson)

Shamshad, who is also communications director for the Muslim Student Association, said that while she feels safe on campus, some of her peers here have been greeted with anti-Muslim rhetoric.

“We need to have a campus culture that welcomes all students, including Muslim students, and that means facilities like halal dining halls, more prayer spaces and making it clear that Muslims are as much a part of this campus community as anyone else,” she said. “That also includes calling out Islamophobia where it happens — even if no Muslims are around to hear it.”

Shamshad said her association is continuing to work with the campus administration to ensure that Berkeley is safe and welcoming for all — a process that, she added, has yielded some fruit, yet she’s optimistic for still more.

In the meantime, Shamshad said she wants to extend an invitation to every campus community at Berkeley to come together around the express purpose of stamping out the divisive, dangerous ideology of bigotry and hate.

“More and more people are taking a stand. We’re going to keep fighting,’’ she said. “Hate will not win.”