Vice President for Mission and Ministry Fr. Kevin O’Brien, S.J. penned a letter in support of Georgetown’s Muslim community Thursday, emphasizing the university’s commitment to its Muslim students in light of recent terror attacks in Paris, Beirut and Baghdad.
The letter, as of press time, has been shared 169 times through the Georgetown University Muslim Life Facebook page. O’Brien acknowledged that many individuals within the United States and around the world have openly voiced hostility to Muslims and Islam following the attacks. O’Brien affirmed that anti-Muslim sentiment and Islamaphobia have no place in the world, and that Georgetown — as a Jesuit university — is open and tolerant to all religions..
“In these anxious times, rhetoric gets heated, public opinion makers can make crass and rash generalizations, impugning and mischaracterizing Islam,” O’Brien wrote. “As a Catholic and Jesuit University … we are a community who cherishes people of all backgrounds and beliefs.”
In an interview with The Hoya following the letter’s release, O’Brien said that his inspiration for the letter came from watching media coverage and hearing public comments following the attacks. O’Brien said he wanted to make it clear that the Campus Ministry stands with its Muslim community.
“Certainly after the attacks, given some of the political reaction in in the U.S. from some people running for president, I was very concerned about crass generalizations about Muslims,” O’Brien said. “I know our Muslim students are very sensitive to such generalizations. I wanted to extend to them our care.”
O’Brien said Georgetown’s role as a facilitator for interfaith and religious dialogue is paramount in combating negative stigma and hostility.
“The interreligious understanding we foster offers a solid foundation for all of us to work towards a lasting peace,” O’Brien said. “Our friendship across religious differences … steeped in deep understanding of the issues [is] the most powerful witnesses against bigotry and intolerance.”
Since the letter’s release, many in and out of Georgetown’s Muslim community have praised Campus Ministry’s stance of supporting students of all creeds and beliefs.
Yusuf Mallick (SFS ’19) appreciated the letter’s emphasis on interfaith dialogue and the impact it plays in addressing stigmas.
“As a young Muslim man, hearing these words from the ministry itself is comforting and most welcome,” Mallick said. “I not only appreciated O’Brien’s words, but I also feel it’s important for our community to continue to learn from one another, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. That’s how we fix these problems.”
Other students from Georgetown’s Muslim community also lauded the letter, saying it stands as a welcome change from a wave of hate some members have witnessed in recent public discourse.
Muslim Student Alliance member Saad Bashir (COL ’19) said it is still difficult to browse the web and watch the news without encountering hatred towards Muslims and Islam.
“In the past couple of weeks, it’s been difficult to see social media blow up with Islamophobia ranging from hateful comments by acquaintances on Facebook to [Donald Trump’s] plan of ID’ing Muslims,” Bashir said.
Bashir said O’Brien’s letter gives him more confidence and faith in the Georgetown community at large.
“The letter … has been very comforting and uplifting, knowing that my university has the courage and moral sensibility to allow us to feel a part of the Hoya community,” Bashir said. “When your parents call you multiple times to say it’s dangerous to leave the dorm, I’m glad to know that they are wrong and that I can count on my fellow Hoyas to support me in our time of need.”
O’Brien said as a university filled with diverse thoughts and beliefs, it is the Georgetown community’s duty to interact with one another through constructive dialogue and discourse.
“Political discourse can hurt people when certain people are targeted because of the religion they profess,” O’Brien said. “We need a discourse that is different. And my letter attempted to provide a discourse grounded in the best of our tradition here.”
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