March 19, 2019
The return from spring break is for many of our students both a joyous and stressful time as they enter the final weeks of the spring semester. This year, however, spring break was marked by the news of the vicious attack on Muslims at their Friday prayers at two mosques in New Zealand, which left fifty dead and many others injured.
Less than five months ago, I wrote to the campus regarding another horrific attack on those at prayer, namely Jewish worshippers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Now we see once more that a climate of hatred and bigotry will extend its violence to many different victims, at home and around the world. As I said in October, "this violence threatens us all and undermines our most cherished values and freedoms, but such attacks fall especially hard on members of the group that was targeted." In this case, as in several recent ones, Muslims have been targeted. This group in New Zealand, while targeted primarily because of their religion, included immigrants as well as many of a different race than the majority population.
Wherever a sense of "otherness" is fostered, hatred and violence follow. We have seen too often religious hatred, racist bigotry, anti-immigrant sentiment and intolerance of those who are different converge to foster violence.
On Wednesday evening, March 20, at 8:00PM the Rice Muslim Student Association will hold a vigil in memory of the Muslim victims in Christchurch, New Zealand. It will take place at Willy's statue in the academic quad. I hope all who can attend will do so for several reasons. First, to demonstrate our common humanity and solidarity with those who are the victims of hate and persecution everywhere. Second, to stand in supprt of our values of tolerance, inclusion and non-discrimination. And third, to express to the Muslim members of our community that we recognize their pain and fear due to this attack, and that we stand with them. Our presence in support of our Muslim community members speaks loudly in rejecting the hatred and violence that produces such attacks.
To borrow from Martin Luther King, Jr., hate-fueled violence anywhere is a threat to people everywhere. We must stand together against such bigotry and violence, here and everywhere.
David W. Leebron
President, Rice University