St. Thomas student body president apologizes for anti-Israel tweets

- The undergraduate student body president at the University of St. Thomas is apologizing to the campus community after anti-Israel tweets he posted several years ago resurfaced on a website.

Canary Mission is a site that documents "people and groups that are promoting hatred of the USA, Israel and the Jewish people, particularly on college campuses in North America."

The site created a page on Mayzer Muhammad, St. Thomas' current student body president. The site shows screenshots of tweets saying "[The Jews] will get what is coming for them" and calling people who support Israel "the scum of the Earth". 

But Muhammad tells FOX 9, he no longer feels that way toward Israel and stands against anti-Semitism. He said at the time, he was upset about the many deaths in Gaza and he meant his tweets to be strictly political. 

"Regardless of what I meant at the time, clearly these words had an impact and I own up to the fact and I really regret that I impacted people," said Muhammad. "I understand people in the community were affected."

University President Julie Sullivan released a statement on Thursday denouncing hate speech, saying, "It is deeply disappointing that the president of our student government or any other member of the St. Thomas community would be accused of anti-Semitic discourse."

Muhammad has deactivated his Twitter account after he continued to receive messages condemning his tweets. He's not planning on reactivating it anytime soon and instead is focusing on outreach. He says he has also met with the university's rabbi in residence and spoke at length about the issue.

On Wednesday, Muhammad addressed the tweets in a statement to the student body, apologizing for his words and calling for unity between Muslims and Jews. 

"As student body president, I want to focus on moving forward, making the campus inclusive and being transparent," said Muhammad.

Undergraduate Student Body President Mayzer Muhammad's full statement:

"To members of the undergraduate student body at St. Thomas,

"I am writing this message in acknowledgement that we are in a climate that’s seeing a great rise in anti-Semitism, islamophobia, xenophobia, homophobia, hate crimes, and other various forms of oppression. This stuff is real. It is a critical time for our communities and we must unite together to challenge bigotry and racism in the world.

"For the past year or so, I have been constantly harassed by a notorious organization that conducted a smear campaign against me by digging through my social media accounts and stating that I had made offensive comments. Yesterday, another organization published an article with the intent to discredit me and my reputation using the same methods. I believe the attacks levied against me by both organizations are Islamophobic. I am coming under attack for being a Muslim leader of the student government at a private Catholic institution. Growing up, I was taught by my religion to treat everyone with respect and dignity no matter where they came from or what they believed in.

"The tweets that resurfaced were from 3+ years ago and do not reflect what I meant at the time. My words were poorly chosen and shared during a period of time where I was very emotional about Israel’s politics and the loss of life in Gaza. I regret my choice of words and apologize for any impact this may have had on people reading my tweets.

"As a leader of this school, I am committed to supporting the students that I serve. If any student comes to me looking for help or support, I believe it is incumbent upon me to do everything that I can. I want members of the St. Thomas community to know that I am trying my best to look out for them and their interests.

"Now more than ever, it is critical for Muslims and Jews to unite, as we already have to combat the hate and attacks that come our way. I am in full support of the Jewish community, and am commanded by my faith to care for all people and to stand up for others who may come under attack. The Quran commands Muslims to “stand out firmly for justice...even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor...” (Quran 4:135)

"I want to reassure everyone that I am committed to serving and assisting each and every single student that I represent. I also want to assure you all that I stand firmly against anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, divisiveness, and oppression that don’t create an inclusive campus for everyone.

"As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” I call for everyone to come together in peace and unite to fight against the injustices that happen all around the world."

University President Julie Sullivan's full statement:

"We are deeply troubled by words that seek to intimidate, divide, or degrade people based on their faith or country of origin. This is not who we are. Hate speech – whether shared out of ignorance, emotion or to advance an agenda – is unacceptable. It is deeply disappointing that the president of our student government or any other member of the St. Thomas community would be accused of anti-Semitic discourse.

"Yesterday, the USG president sent a statement to the student body in an attempt to provide context while expressing regret and apologizing for the negative impact his words had on those who read them and members of the St. Thomas community. Further, he stated, “I stand firmly against anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, divisiveness and oppression that don’t create an inclusive campus for everyone.”

"The University of St. Thomas strongly denounces the 2014 statements that have circulated on social media – and all hateful anti-Semitic, anti-Christian or anti-Muslim posts. Our Catholic intellectual tradition values the fundamental compatibility of faith and reason to foster meaningful dialogue directed toward the flourishing of human culture – culture that respects a vibrant diverse community and works toward an inclusive society.

"At the same time, we are deeply concerned about the vitriolic and hateful discourse that targets young voices. Our mission is to educate students to be morally responsible leaders, who think critically, act wisely and work skillfully to advance the common good.

"In the coming days, our student body and our student government – which have focused on enhancing diversity, understanding and inclusivity on campus – will need to deliberate about their future leadership. The student government is taking this situation very seriously and is seeking input from the student body. Their governance policies have a clearly defined process when the actions of a leader are called into question. The university will respect this process.

"Challenging times test the convictions of any community. It is at this time that our convictions of faith, reason, dignity and diversity provide us strength. To Jewish members of our community we extend our full support and acknowledge the pain and hurtfulness this situation has created. We embrace you and all faiths within our learning community."

 

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