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Dear Fresno State Muslim Students and Colleagues, CAIR leaders, and San Joaquin Valley
Recently, The Sacramento Bee and Fresno Bee published an article in which a Muslim student recounted her experiences with anti-Muslim bias at Fresno
State, including an experience in an Anthropology classroom.
As faculty members in the Department of Anthropology at Fresno State, we were troubled,
but not entirely surprised, to read the student’s story. We have observed the sustainment
and amplification of Islamophobia, as well as xenophobia, anti-Blackness, racism,
sexism, ableism, homophobia, and transphobia on our campus. Sadly, this is not surprising,
given recent national surges in discrimination and violence targeting racial and religious
minorities. Further, topics surrounding Anthropology and religious beliefs are often
difficult and talking about religion in the classroom takes careful groundwork; even
then, it can go wrong.
In short, anti-Muslim bias is real, and the student in this case (and many students)
regularly experience both subtle and overt bias.
We feel angry and accountable for what happens on college campuses every day to the
student in the article and far too many Muslim and other religious minority students
and colleagues, as documented in the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) report. Historically, our field has been responsible for upholding pseudoscientific ideas
about race and untenable views of cultural and religious groups as static, uniform,
and unchanging. More recent generations of anthropologists, however, have also insisted
on the relentless recognition of common and equal humanity and dignity across all
intersecting differences, including religion, gender, sex, class, race, ethnicity,
ability, nation, or other dimensions of individual or group identity. Given these
core commitments in today’s Anthropology, it is especially alarming and disheartening
to learn of their betrayal in any Anthropology classroom. Stereotypes about Muslims
have been mobilized to justify war and genocide, detention and deportation, legalized
discrimination, incarceration, and profiling. This is the case from grade schools
to airports, to college campuses and city streets, and all the spaces beyond and in
While much work has been done to challenge and correct these poorly conceived assumptions
and policies, stereotypes hold a dangerous sticking power. Anthropologists are not
immune to this. No one is. These ideas continue to shape popular and political constructs
of Muslims, even though this religious group is not at all homogenous. Indeed, Islam
is practiced by over one billion people on six continents. Islamic communities include
individuals with diverse cultural backgrounds, languages, and political beliefs, and
Muslim people contribute in just as many diverse ways to Fresno State, the City of
Fresno, and the broader San Joaquin Valley.
We are committed to doing better for students like the woman in the article. We are
committed to racial justice, unqualified by anything. We are here to serve all students,
equally and without bias. We are committed to grow.
We offer an apology to the student in this case, and all Muslim students and colleagues
who experience isolation, exclusion, discrimination, or harm on our campus. We would
like to be among the first to participate in the unique program that CAIR is offering
to help address anti-Muslim sentiment, discrimination, and violence. We want to find
ways towards accountability, reconciliation, and justice. We know we can do better.
We are here to listen and learn, and to collaborate towards the creation of truly
safe and inclusive classrooms and communities.
The Faculty of the Department of Anthropology at Fresno State