Despite Combative Interruptions, Rutgers Hillel Event Brings Attention to Human Rights Abuses

Muslim students disrupt attempt to hold a civil discourse on oppression under Islamic regimes

On Tuesday evening, Muslim students at Rutgers University protested a presentation by human rights activists Brooke Goldstein and Qanta Ahmed on the plight of Muslims under radical Islamist regimes.

As described in the Daily Targum, Goldstein and Dr. Ahmed “described child soldiers’ harrowing journey from childhood to becoming suicide bombers at the hands of terrorist groups.” Goldstein spoke of her experience interviewing the families of Palestinian terrorists and her knowledge of radical Islamist regimes, while Dr. Ahmed discussed her first encounter with "sexism in Islam" in Saudi Arabia and "oppression and human rights violations in Islam."

“The Rutgers Hillel Center for Israel Engagement was very proud to have sponsored last night's program, which created a safe space for students to engage with difficult issues in a serious way," explained Andrew Getraer, the Executive Director of Rutgers Hillel. “The presentations were exceptional:  reasoned, articulate, compassionate – but no tip-toeing around the issues.  I would characterize it as a powerful and moving experience for the standing-room-only crowd of students, about half Jews and half Muslim. The speakers, one Jewish, one Muslim, testified to their own experiences living, working, and researching in Muslim areas under the rule of religious extremists. The litany of child abuse and oppression of women and minorities was tragic and chilling.”

When the formal presentations concluded, however, tensions escalated.

"Last night was the first time in a long time that I sat frozen in a chair, shocked almost to the point of tears. I’m not quite sure why it happened, but the same lump that forms in your throat just before you’re about to cry started forming in mine. No one was talking to me. No one was shouting at me, or directly targeting me. But it sure felt that way. I can honestly say that I’d never witnessed as hostile a 'conversation' as I did last night," Shira Rosenblum, a senior at Rutgers told TruthRevolt. "I sat captivated for 2.5 hours by both Brooke and Qanta’s factual and personal stories related to human rights violations against minorities in the Middle East."

“While the two-hour formal presentation was conducted with civility and attentiveness, the post-program, the Q&A was filled with shouting, anger, and discord. Not a single Muslim student addressed the litany of crimes and human rights violations which had been described to them in detail for two hours,” said Getraer. “Instead, they focused entirely on criticizing the speakers personally. The lack of concern for real human rights was perhaps the most disappointing element of the evening.”  

“It was clear from the start that the Muslim students who caused the disruption had no interest whatsoever in discussing the egregious human rights violations occurring against innocent Muslim and Christian men, women, and children in Syria, Iran, Pakistan and other Islamist countries,” Brooke Goldstein told TruthRevolt. “Rather, their intent was to stifle public dialogue about the persecution of innocents.” 

“In true Islamist fashion, they claimed I, a female Jew, and Dr. Ahmed, a female Muslim, had no right to exercise our first amendment rights to speak on the subject.  They claimed Dr. Ahmed was not a real visible Muslim since she was not wearing a hijab, and shouted 'Zionist as me as though it was a dirty word,” explained Goldstein. “These students didn’t give a damn about the innocent children burned alive by Boko Haram, or the young boys hung in Iran for being homosexual, or the 160 dead children in GAZA killed by Hamas in forced labor building their terror tunnels. The Muslim students only cared to silence the discussion, because their primary goal is to punish what they see as the defamation of Islam.  

“I wonder, if it is anti-Muslim to say that children should not be slaughtered by ISIS, what then is their view of pro-Muslim?”

Dr. Ahmed expressed immense gratitude to Hillel for putting on the event but described the atmosphere that the Muslim students created as “militant” and told TruthRevolt that it was “very discouraging that this is the level of discourse in a place of learning.”

“Nobody challenged me on any issue I raised with Islam,” said Ahmed. “It was clearly just an opportunity to attack us as individuals.”

Ahmed described an atmosphere in which the Jewish students were receptive and welcoming while the Muslim students in the room were incredibly rude. “I am embarrassed as a Muslim to see this kind of behavior.”

"It doesn't make me included to engage on American campuses if this is the level of discourse," she explained. "There are incredible freedoms to speak and to exchange ideas in the United States. This is being abused."

Rosenblum had a similar take on the situation. "Almost as soon as the 20 minute Q & A session opened up, the shouting, hooting, and derogatory comments starting flying out of people’s mouths. People were no longer thinking before they spoke (from both sides of the 'dialogue') and I sat, completely frozen, as my ears picked up words like 'terrorist' from one side and “Zionist” from the other. Of all the 'questions' asked, I can only remember one that directly touched on the content of the talk. All others were questioning both Brooke and Qanta’s credibility as speakers and representatives."

"I saw a lot of very quiet Hillel students among a crowd of loud, passionate (and for the most part rude) students speaking and constantly interrupting others comments who represented groups such as MSA and SJP," said Rosenblum.

Both Ahmed and Goldstein took to Twitter after the event to take issue with the conduct of the Muslim students in attendance:

Ahmed and Goldstein both quickly left the room. Despite the tension during the event, several Muslim and Jewish students continued to engage in a discussion.

“Several Muslim students stayed at Hillel and continued discussions with a group of Jewish students.  The students expressed their feelings that the overall experience was extremely positive,” said Getraer. “I was very proud of our students and that Hillel facilitates such discussion. Honesty and understanding between Rutgers Jewish and Muslim students took a significant step forward last night.“ 

Rosenblum echoed Getraer's positive feeling calling the development "amazing." "While the 'conversation dialogue' may not have been as successful as we wanted it to be, I think we all learned a lot from what happened last night and I’m very excited to continue the conversations the students started."