The Daily Illini

Put an end to religious intolerance

Alayna Nulty

Alayna Nulty

By Hayley Nagelberg, Columnist

Religious intolerance has gone unaddressed in the national sphere and on our campus for too long. As an institution preparing the next leaders of the world, we must do better. We must not simply speak up when discriminatory acts occur, but must consciously, proactively work to prevent their future recurrences. While there are many issues to tackle on any campus, we cannot avoid the topic of religious hate any longer.

In Pittsburgh on Oct. 27, a gunman opened fire at a synagogue, murdering 11 people of the congregation in the middle of their Shabbat (Sabbath) morning prayers.

My social media feed immediately erupted with my Jewish brothers and sisters across the country expressing their shock and horror, sadness and grief, searching for words to express their feelings about this tragedy.

Allies from every community imaginable — those from other religions, races, ethnicities and from every walk of life — began to speak up to share their concern and solidarity. Perhaps they are not in as large of numbers as the Jewish community, but they are there. I hear them. I believe them. I appreciate them.

The last week and a half has looked and felt different for the Jewish community. Jewish institutions have been on high alert, publicly attempting to maintain a status quo, while internally struggling to figure out what next steps to take to ensure safety and security.

Over the last couple weeks, stories of anti-Semitism have appeared all over my social media newsfeeds, in my email inbox, over my voicemail, in in-person conversations. These are stories of swastikas drawn on cars and walls, of the words “f— Jews” written on synagogues, of Jews mocked and ridiculed on Halloween under the assumption that wearing a Jewish headcovering was a costume, of Jewish students across the country having pennies thrown at them and so much more.

The Jewish community is not alone in being targeted for our religious beliefs. Leading up to Election Day, there were Islamophobic ​advertisements seen​ in California and Islamophobic ​hate directed at​ candidates in Arizona, Michigan and Alaska.

Unfortunately, religious intolerance is not new in this country. Religious intolerance is also not new on this campus where Jewish students have been screamed at and ridiculed on the Main Quad for wearing Jewish jewelry and Jewish Greek house letters, and Muslim students have been targeted for wearing hijabs.

Both of these communities on campus have utilized University-sanctioned reporting mechanisms to highlight the hate and intolerance we have faced.

I cannot speak in any way for any other faith community, but I can tell you what the Jewish community has done to advocate for change at this University. The Jewish community has spent years asking every level of administration to address anti-Semitic discrimination at this University. Still, dozens of complaints of anti-Semitism have not been appropriately addressed.The community has asked for for clear, specific, time-sensitive action steps: First, adopt the U.S. State Department’s accepted definition of anti-Semitism and implement it into mandatory freshman diversity training. Second, set a date for the initiation of campus dialogue on religious tolerance. Third, set a date for the adoption of new policies on handling claims of, and discipline for, acts of religious discrimination. Fourth, promptly outline a plan of training for all members of the University community in addressing these matters.  

If we, as a public university, cannot take swift action on such pressing matters, how can we expect the proliferation of hate to cease? When we ignore such hate, it only becomes more powerful, more accepted and more widespread.

Change must start, and it needs to start promptly. We must show the national and international community that religious hate will not go unrecognized and unanswered by our generation anymore.

Hayley is a senior in ACES.

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