Outraged students at the Ohio State University have mobilized after The Lantern, the campus’s official student-run newspaper, published what they say is a discriminatory advertisement linking the Muslim Student Association to international terrorism.
Titled “Former leaders of the Muslim Student Association (MSA)”, the advertisement asks “Where are they now?” and lists nine MSA co-founders and former Presidents as having ties to alleged terrorist groups. One such listing describes Jamal Barzini as both a co-founder of the MSA and a close associate of Hamas.
The advertisement was paid for by FrontPage Magazine, an online publication funded by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a national institution recognized for its harsh and derogatory stance against Islam.
The advertisement, printed on page 2 of the newspaper, drew immediate criticism for its direct assault on Muslim representation on American college campuses. According to Jana Al-Akhras, a 2nd year student and member of the university’s MSA, “it’s a blatant attempt at reinforcing stereotypes and causing widespread fear of Muslims on campus.”
Students across campus have already begun to protest the advertisement. “We are writing a letter to the editor,” said Nadia Ismail, a 1st year undergraduate at OSU, and “will be in touch with groups on and off campus” to stand against what Al-Akhras calls a blanket statement labeling Muslim students as security threats. OSU’s MSA is currently planning a course of action.
Although The Lantern was not responsible for putting the advertisement together, Al-Akhras says she holds the newspaper accountable. “It wasn’t an op-ed. It was a paid advertisement and they [The Lantern] had all the right to refuse it.”
Asked whether this form of advertisement should be expected, Ismail said that “it has become acceptable to discriminate against Muslims. I don’t think any attack this forthcoming would have been published about any other religion.”
There is much to discuss about freedom of speech on college campuses but “there’s a fine line between freedom of speech and hate speech,” Al-Akhras said in an interview. To imply that the MSA, assuming the advertisement’s allegations are true, is responsible for international terrorism only “breeds hatred.”
Both Al-Akhras and Ismail hope this experience will show that discrimination on and off campus will not be tolerated.