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The Dartmouth
April 18, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Saeedi, Alsheikh and Akmehmet: In Response To the Vandalization of Al-Nur’s Ice Sculpture

The vandalization of the ice sculpture of the Muslim Student Association was a hate crime, and more needs to be done to ensure the safety of Muslim and Palestinian students at Dartmouth.

Any form of hate directed against students for their race, religion or nationality is unacceptable. Yet sadly, such hate was directed at Muslim and Palestinian students this Winter Carnival. 

At roughly 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 10, a Dartmouth student attacked the submission by Al-Nur — Dartmouth’s Muslim Student Association — to the ice sculpture competition. The sculpture featured Palestinian imagery and symbols, as well as the Palestinian flag. It was first shattered and then later covered in Israeli flags. The student believed to be the perpetrator had harassed many members of the Muslim and Palestinian communities before this incident, both in person and over email.

Because the ice sculpture was the property of Al-Nur, we believe that its destruction was an act of vandalism, the status of which ranges in New Hampshire from criminal mischief to a Class B felony if “the property has historical, cultural or sentimental value that cannot be restored by repair or replacement.” We also believe that the vandalism of the structure was an act of hate directed against the identities of Muslim and Palestinian students. Thus, we believe the vandalization meets the U.S. Department of Justice’s criteria for a hate crime, defined as “a crime motivated by bias against race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability.” 

We are deeply shocked and saddened at the vandalization of our sculpture. We and the rest of our community have never felt as unsafe on campus as we do now, especially in light of the recent shooting of three Palestinian college students in nearby Burlington, Vt. At a moment when Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian sentiment are at an all-time high, we and many others fear that we are in imminent danger of physical harm on campus.

It is important to understand that this incident was not the first time hate has been directed at Muslim and Palestinian students at Dartmouth. Previous incidents include the attempted uprooting of Al-Nur’s memorial flags outside Parkhurst in the fall, the verbal abuse of a Gazan member of Al-Nur by a student Israeli army veteran and the threatening and pouring alcohol on Muslim students during the Homecoming Bonfire (alcohol is forbidden in Islam, so this was particularly disrespectful towards Muslims). Yet, this current iteration marks a new level of open hatred directed against Muslim and Palestinian students. We believe that urgent action is necessary to ensure the immediate safety of Muslim and Palestinian students on campus.

Firstly, this crime must be called what it is — an act of hate directed against Muslim and Palestinian students — and immediate support be offered to the affected students. Yet, we have been extremely disappointed to see the administration hesitate to explicitly condemn the vandalization as an act of hate. Although they have acknowledged that the vandalization happened, they have refused to acknowledge that this was no ordinary vandalism: it was directed against the identities of Muslim and Palestinian students. In fact, in their email statement sent to campus on Sunday, the administration has refused to even mention the words Palestine or Palestinian, even though we believe the evidence, especially the Israeli flags, clearly shows that the crime was in large part motivated because of the Palestinian imagery on the sculpture, which was carved by one of our Palestinian members.  

Comparing this response to the statement sent out after the interruption of a Native American drum circle in the fall, which clearly and immediately identified Native Americans as the victims of a hateful act and committed to supporting them, we feel marginalized and ignored by the administration. Especially in light of President Sian Beilock’s absence at our vigil for Israeli and Palestinian casualties last term and her silence after the Burlington shooting, we are beginning to question whether protecting the Muslim student community is a priority of the administration.

This refusal to recognize the hateful nature of the vandalism of the ice sculpture sets a dangerous precedent for future violence and must be reversed immediately.

Secondly, the vandal must be held to the appropriate disciplinary and legal consequences. Doing so has importance far beyond this particular case. Holding the perpetrator accountable is essential to discouraging similar incidents in the future and establishing a firm precedent that Dartmouth stands against hate. Despite the administration’s apathy towards the vandalism so far, we hope to be able to work with the administration and relevant law enforcement to ensure an appropriate course of action is taken to hold the vandal accountable.

Lastly, this event has made it clear that greater education about Muslim and Palestinian identity is desperately needed on campus. More needs to be done to learn about the marginalization of our student community on campus, especially in light of warnings from organizations like the United Nations about the rise of genocidal language targeting Muslims and Palestinians around the world. To that end, Al-Nur and the Palestine Solidarity Coalition will be organizing teach-ins about Palestinian culture and Islamophobia this Thursday. Yet, more will need to be done by faculty and administrators to integrate Muslim and Palestinian students as equal members of the Dartmouth community. Teaching about Palestinian culture and history must be a priority for educators on this campus moving forward.

We hope to be able to move past this hate and to be able to build a campus community where no one faces any form of violence or hate for their identities. We hope to work with other student groups, religious communities and the administration to build up a more inclusive and welcoming campus for all students in the future. In these difficult times, we look back to āyah 34 of Surah Fussilat in the Qur’an:

“Repel evil with what is better, and you will see that the one you had conflict with become as if he were a devoted friend.”

Modaser Saeedi ’24 is a co-president of Al-Nur Muslim Student Association. Ramsey Alsheikh ’26 is the director of philanthropy at Al-Nur and president of the Palestinian Solidarity Coalition. Tuna Akmehmet ’26 is director of communications at Al-Nur and co-president of the Turkish Student Association. Both Alsheikh and Akmehmet helped carve the ice sculpture for Al-Nur. Opinion articles represent the views of their author(s), which are not necessarily those of The Dartmouth.

The Dartmouth welcomes guest columns. We request that guest columns be the original work of the submitter. Submissions may be sent to both opinion@thedartmouth.com and editor@thedartmouth.com. Submissions will receive a response within three business days.