Read the full piece at Middle East Eye

By Zainab Iqbal

A little over a week after Fatima Mohammed stood on stage and called out Israel's human rights violations and crimes against Palestinians during her City University of New York (Cuny) School of Law commencement ceremony, the university denounced her speech.

In a statement on 30 May, the university categorised her address as hate speech and said they condemned such words.

But while the university and elected officials - many of whom called her statement antisemitic - spoke out against her, Jewish organisations and Cuny Law staff and students are condemning what many are calling a "smear campaign".

Within Our Lifetime (WOL) Palestine launched a campaign titled, “We stand with Fatima”, where the organisation is calling on people to defend activists at Cuny that stand with Palestine.

WOL is encouraging people to sign their statement, email Cuny and demand they “recant their most recent statement and protect Fatima and all students, faculty, and alumni facing repression for organising for Palestine”.

On 1 June, dozens of Cuny faculty members signed a letter addressed to the Cuny chancellor and the board of trustees requesting them to withdraw their 30 May statement and apologise to Mohammed and the students that make up the law school Class of 2023.

“No reasonable interpretation of the student speaker’s remarks would suggest it was ‘hate speech,’ given that none of the student’s comments attacked any persons or protected classes, but at most commented on nations and state institutions that are incontrovertibly causing harm to people domestically and internationally,” the letter said.

“The May 30th Statement compounds the harms of the smear campaign executed by inflammatory publications like the New York Post, as well as the Mayor and other public officials on their official Twitter accounts, asserting similarly baseless characterizations of the student speaker’s commencement speech.”


Passionate about social justice

Mohammed is currently studying for the New York State Bar exam. At the same time, she has been subject to death threats and Islamophobia, causing her and her family to fear for their safety.

“She is at the beginning of her career and this is the kind of thing that can be very damaging,” Huq said. “There’s so much harm that’s being done. And it’s being done to a first-generation Muslim-American woman who is the core student body of Cuny.”

'If she were not angry about the daily destruction of children, families, or friends... then liberalism would be deception'

- Gregory Louis, associate professor

Mohammed was not in Huq’s class, but Huq knew her as a first-year student and describes her as someone who is passionate about social justice. Huq forwarded an email that Mohammed had sent to her and other faculty members two years ago.

In the email, Mohammed sent her appreciation and gratitude to the Cuny Law professors. She wrote: “The way you constantly show up for us is inspiring and comforting. The spaces you hold to make sure we don’t feel alone, and the constant giving of yourself does not go unnoticed.”

Mohammed was voted by her graduating class to be the speaker at the 2023 commencement. Huq believes that is a testament to the kind of person she is.

“She spoke truth to power and I'm very much proud of the position that she's taken,” Huq said.

“If Cuny's leadership will not be there for our students, it is up to us to be there for them.”

Jews stand with Fatima


In a statement on 30 May, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice said: “A university should be supporting their student who’s being targeted in right-wing media, the mayor, and multiple members of congress. CUNY should be standing up for Fatima, despite disagreement or discomfort. Instead, they’re throwing her to the wolves. Utterly shameful.”

Read the full piece at Middle East Eye