An open letter to those misunderstanding #dintifada

Shufan Zhang/Staff

Dear campus community,

On Sunday night, as I launched my campaign for ASUC Senate, one of my hashtags on Facebook, #dintifada, was not received well by some students at UC Berkeley. To clear up any misunderstandings, I wanted to publicly share my thoughts on this issue.

It was not my intention to hurt my fellow classmates and peers. I want to explain my reasoning behind the hashtag, however, in the hope that you will understand there was no malice involved, but rather the opposite — I meant to spread the authentic meaning behind the word I find so inspiring.

I will start by explaining my usage of #dintifada. Breaking it down, my last name, Din, colloquially means faith, and “intifada” means uprising, resistance or rebellion. When put together, the inspiration I draw from #dintifada is a representation of a faith-filled resistance — a compassionate and resilient means of survival. In my role as a student, this translates to challenging institutions, contemporary thinking and other potential obstructions to social justice.

Furthermore, the word intifada is a representation of the Palestinian struggle, a struggle with which I have and always will stand in solidarity. The use of this word gives the Palestinian people hope, and I find it extremely disturbing that students are delegitimizing the reality Palestinians go through on a daily basis by saying this word is “triggering.” To me, this word is uplifting, it is beautiful, and it represents the struggle of all oppressed people.

It was brought to my attention, however, that some students assumed they heard me at Cafe Milano opposing the recently passed ASUC anti-Semitism bill.  I would like to reassure anyone who has a doubt that I did not speak against the passage of the anti-Semitism bill written by Student Action Senator Ori Herschmann. In fact, I was supportive of it — along with all 20 senators, including the MEMSSA-backed, independent Senator Marium Navid — and was pleased when the bill was passed, because I do not support any hate speech on this campus. To assume I am anti-Semitic because I use words that represent the Palestinian struggle is a large generalization that to its core is exclusionary of all other struggles of students on this campus.

I also find it concerning that the bill condemning anti-Semitism was vehemently defended as having no relationship to Israeli politics. Yet my hashtag, only partially in reference to the Palestinian struggle, is immediately deemed anti-Semitic. References to the state of Israel are not inherently anti-Semitic. It should be noted that the Intifada uprisings were a violent time for both Palestinians and Israelis and deserve to be appropriately mourned, but my reference to it in no way was or will be a call of hatred toward Jewish people.

The fact that a misunderstanding over my word choice for a hashtag led to broad claims about how I am hostile or prejudiced against a particular group of people at this school speaks to issues that are rooted far beyond my candidacy in this year’s election. Because of this, I am further motivated to help foster an inclusive and transparent campus climate at UC Berkeley — one that creates dialogue instead of allegation. If elected, I will work hard to ensure that we are building cross-cultural bridges and creating a cohesive and safe community for all. As such, I hope to interact with individuals who may have perspectives that differ from mine.

Instead, I have been harassed by multiple organizations and even news websites such as TruthRevolt and the Stand With Us Campaign, calling for my expulsion and telling me to “go to school in Mecca,” among other hateful remarks. This allegation in itself is an example of the multiple layers of the inherent racism and bigotry in anti-Palestinian propaganda, in which the identities of people of color from the South and Southwest Asian and North African communities are constantly mischaracterized in attacks.

Finally, I am aware there are multiple interconnected organizations that are willing to respond to my campaign with unfounded responses. I do not appreciate or condone such remarks as an attempt to assassinate my character and defame my campaign; in fact, I see these responses as an attempt to distract from the actual issues I am trying so hard to combat and find important, as they relate to my community in addition to the greater campus community. I truly believe it is our responsibility as UC Berkeley students to engage in intellectual discourse with one another — especially about challenging topics and issues we hold near our hearts — instead of spreading divisiveness and conflict.

It highly troubles me that no students from this campus have personally reached out to me about their concerns. Although I am not in office, I would like to be as open and accessible as I can be. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to email me at [email protected]. I am happy to meet with any concerned students on this campus and help foster a safe space for dialogue with all students here.

It is important that these issues be discussed — but for anyone to question my intentions and try to portray me as anti-Semitic or someone who practices hate mongering is absolutely unacceptable. I will not allow anyone to delegitimize the struggle of the communities I represent, and I will continue to fight for our voices to be heard on an even playing field with the utmost transparency, compassion and vigor.

Sumayyah Din is a candidate for ASUC senate.

Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.

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