[Note – one day after posting this, we received word the university dropped charges against Ms. Khan. We congratulate her and her allies on this victory.]
Independent Jewish Voices Canada supports the right of Masuma Khan to free speech. Khan, vice-president academic and external of the Dalhousie University Student Union, posted Facebook comments that one white, male graduate history student found offensive. He did not like the fact that the Dalhousie Students Union voted to refuse to participate in ‘Canada 150’ celebrations. Khan had made that motion and said, “I stand by Indigenous students. … Be proud of this country? For what, over 400 years of genocide?”
In response to racist comments against her, Khan responded: “White fragility can kiss my ass. Your white tears aren’t sacred, this land is.” As a result of the complaint, Khan now faces discipline under the Dalhousie Student Code of Conduct.
As journalist Shree Paradkar at the Toronto Star notes, these are “Fierce words. Fighting words. Challenging words [but are they]…. words worth censoring?”
Twenty-five professors at Dalhousie’s Schulich School of Law don’t think so. Their open letter to the Dalhousie Senate challenges the university’s disciplinary procedure, and says it cannot police and censor political speech. Letters of support have poured in from individuals and organizations across Canada.
Khan, who is Muslim, experiences Islamophobia – at the university and in the wider community. She has had scores of death threats and horrifying threats of sexual violence and rape against her for expressing her views. Now Dalhousie University wants to put her ‘on trial’ in a disciplinary hearing—for speaking against racism and colonialism, in favour of Indigenous rights and against white privilege.
IJV Canada salutes her.
By Judy Haiven and Larry Haiven
Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV) is a national human rights organization whose mandate is to promote a just resolution to the conflict in Israel and Palestine through the application of international law and respect for the human rights of all parties.