Hashtag used in ASUC campaign announcement spurs controversy

ASUC Senate candidate Sumayyah Din’s hashtag “dintifada” sparked controversy on social media this week because of its play on the word “intifada.”

An independent candidate backed by the campus Middle Eastern Muslim Sikh and South Asian coalition, Din announced her candidacy Sunday and is running on a platform that includes police reform and increased accountability for the campus’s Division of Equity & Inclusion. A description on her Facebook profile picture announcing her candidacy for senate included the word along with other puns on her last name.

Din said she chose to use the word intifada partly because it means “shaking off, resistance, rebellion and uprising.” She said because her last name colloquially means faith, she intended “dintifada” to invoke the idea of “faith-filled rebellion” to oppression of all kinds.

Several people on websites and social media, however, criticized her use of the word, which is often associated with intensified periods of violence between Israel and Palestine. On Monday, the campus group Bears for Israel posted a screenshot of Din’s profile picture description and called the use of the word “damaging and terrifying,” saying that it “marginalizes a minority group” and asking for an apology.

“The word ‘intifada’ has a lot of really negative connotations, implications and memories,” said Naomi Movshovich, vice president of Bears for Israel. “(It was) a very bloody time for both Israelis and Palestinians.”

Movshovich added that because Din would make decisions on issues affecting all UC Berkeley students as a senator, she ought to “be mindful of what she says or how she says it.”

The pro-Israel advocacy organization StandWithUs called the hashtag characteristic of the “ridiculous rhetoric (that) continues to engulf the UC student government system” in a post on its Facebook page, calling it “inappropriate” and “offensive.”

To address the controversy over the word, Din wrote an op-ed published online in The Daily Californian on Tuesday to explain her rationale.

“I cherish (the word’s) meaning, because it requires that even in dire circumstances, like the occupation of the Palestinian territories, there is still hope, and a need to fight on,” Din said in an email. “As a Pakistani-Afghan woman, I also face struggles on a daily basis that other folks might not understand.”

Din’s friend, UC Berkeley freshman Faisal Mohmand, said the names Din has been called since the criticism spread online have been offensive and not appropriate. Mohmand said Din strives to create a safe environment on campus.

Din has also emphasized that she supported a bill condemning anti-Semitism that was passed by the ASUC Senate last month. Moving forward, Din said she hope to help initiate more conversation among students to further the dialogue precipitated by this word.

“The hashtag ‘dintifada’ has created this space on campus … that can go into any direction,” she said. “Another way we can use this space is to create a conversation.”

Frances Fitzgerald covers student life. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @f_fitzgerald325.