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Islamophobia on College Campuses: An Unreported Concern

Updated: May 21

Anti-Semitism on college campuses: whether via congressional hearings grilling academic leaders or the White House itself, this issue is all over the news.

Analyzing anti-Semitic activity that is the focus of the media, one may be surprised to learn that Islamophobia is such a problem on campuses. After all, the student movement for Palestine appears to be the driving protest force across the country. However, where there is a protest, there will almost certainly be a counter-protest. Advocates for Israel have come out in droves to voice their opinions, often with violent consequences.

On Tuesday, April 30, pro-Israel agitators stormed the student encampment at UCLA. The agitators attacked the pro-Palestinian protesters and attempted to destroy the encampment. Twenty-five members of the encampment were hospitalized in what can only be described as an anti-Palestinian hate crime. This instance is just one egregious example of blatant physical and verbal assault on students protesting in favor of Palestine. 

Inside Higher Ed reports that a “postdoctoral research scholar” was suspended after he “followed a young woman in a hijab on a sidewalk, got in her face and insulted her.” A video of the incident shows Jonathan Yudelman (the scholar in question) and his associate telling the woman to “go back to jihad.” 

In another incident, a Palestinian-American protester at UT Austin was stabbed after the alleged attacker “tried to rip a flagpole with a Palestinian keffiyeh scarf reading ‘Free Palestine’ off” the victim's truck. The apparent aggressor, one Bert James Baker, also repeatedly called the victim and associates “the n-word.” These incidents, disgusting as they are, things are handled better in a liberal university like UMass Amherst, right?

Wrong. In an article published by The Intercept, journalist Prem Thakker breaks down a nearly 50-page criminal complaint filed by victims of anti-Palestinian and Islamophobic agitators on campus. The article is called “Kill all Arabs,” after what Thakker calls one of “the most chilling allegations,” where a student screamed the aforementioned phrase at their peers. Other alleged harassment includes attacks over social media platforms, with pro-Israel accounts associated with UMass spewing viscerally hateful statements calling pro-Palestinian students things such as “genocidal barbarian baby decapitator supporters.” Some have even gone as far as to call “every ‘Palestinian’ child in Gaza" a terrorist. This is blatant hate speech, and we as a society must change course to prevent hate from continuing to flow.

What is to be done? The answer is relatively simple, albeit complicated in execution. Continue protesting to apply more pressure. The student movement for Palestine has exposed the anti-Muslim rot present in the hearts of many. So long as it is out in the open, it can be cut out like the malignant tumor that it is. Separate those acting in bad faith, both anti-Semite and Islamophobe, from the average protester. Keep protesting against the Islamophobia that is sweeping the country. Keep chanting and shouting in favor of a free Palestine. File complaints. Film everything. Amass evidence and use it to publicly expose the aggressors. 

Violence is NOT a real option, but civil disobedience is. The average protester will face resistance. Riot police beat and pepper spray will be used regardless of how peaceful their encampment is. Politicians will denounce their actions, calling the base of operations you have created in the quad a “little Gaza” in the not-so-eloquent words of Sen. Cotton. These are all signs that what you are doing is working, for fish do not like it when you tap the glass. As for those on the other side who argue in favor of both police action and vigilantism to stop student protests, there is one thing to say: history will not be forgiving.

Acknowledgment: The opinions expressed in this piece are those of the individual author. 


May 29

This is a very interesting piece. Anti-Semitism is awful and it is appropriate that the rise of it on college campuses since the beginning of the conflict in Israel is getting so much attention. However it is equally true that Islamophobia, and Islamophobic and racist anti-Arab attacks are awful but it appears that they are getting no attention. Hopefully articles like this can draw more attention to the issue so that all forms of hate can be better combatted.


This article is excellent. It initiates a compelling discussion on how anti-Semitism has become such a significant issue that the term itself is being redefined. However, it highlights the lack of attention given to the Islamophobia experienced by students on campus as they advocate for their rights.


Great article Ethan! You let your emotions guide your writing and I think it was a great decision for this topic which is often written on without compassion or empathy for the pro-Palestinian side of the protests. There are always two sides to every coin and I think you skillfully highlighted the less-acknowledged side in this article. Your personal writing style is on full display and it is always a captivating read!

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