Fear and panic spread across campus at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) on Wednesday, March 1, as fliers calling for the internment of Muslims within the San Diego area were spotted in various residence halls, lecture halls and colleges.
“INSTRUCTION TO ALL PERSONS OF ISLAMIC BELIEF,” the poster announced. “All Muslim persons, both alien and non-alien, will be evacuated from the above designated area by 12:00 o’clock noon Wednesday, April 8, 2017.”
It continued to read in part that, “No Muslim person will be permitted to enter or leave the above-described area after 8:00 a.m., Thursday, April 2, 2017, without obtaining special permission from the Provost Marshal at the Civil Control Station.”
Jarring, yes – but there’s more than meets the eye. Soon after the unrest at UCSD was reported, an Op-Ed was published in a student-run newspaper by the creator of the fliers. Although the person would like to remain anonymous, the newspaper has confirmed their identity as the drafter.
In a statement of clarification, the source said:
“I am the person who made the posters, and I feel I should clarify their meaning, as well as apologize for not making that meaning obvious enough and causing this whole situation.
First, they are not anti-Muslim at all. I intended them to be sympathetic towards Muslims. I am a Japanese-American myself, so the subject of internment has always meant a lot to me as a tragic event, especially since my own grandparents were forced into internment.”
The intention of the posters was to relay the truth that the United States may be at risk of repeating past mistakes by targeting and threatening individuals and communities based on race, faith, or association.
The author continued to highlight that his work was misrepresented by news sources covering the action as they made no mention of relevant wording at the bottom of the posters that would have contributed to the proper interpretation of the work.
The intention of the posters was to relay the truth that the United States may be at risk of repeating past mistakes by targeting and threatening individuals and communities based on race, faith, or association. After all, the notion has certainly been brought up by Trump’s campaign in the past.
The posters were carefully crafted to resemble posters rounding up Japanese-Americans into internment camps after former President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 in 1942 following the bombing of Pearl Harbor during World War II. The issuance of this order spearheaded a wave of mass incarceration of Japanese-American citizens and permanent residents. Over 120,000 Japanese-Americans, half of whom were children, were forced into one of 10 concentration camps (as referred to by Roosevelt himself) for up to four years.
After 50 years, Congress signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 acknowledging that “a grave injustice was done” as a result of the camps. Slight reparations were paid, but the discriminatory and systematic incarceration of Japanese-Americans based upon race has had a lasting impact on both the physical and mental health of a traumatized community that has served as a physical backbone of the United States since the late 19th Century.
In a statement issued by UCSD’s Muslim Student Association Board Chair, Tarek Gouda, the creator of the fliers was welcomed as an ally.
“Despite that we now recognize that the individual who made the posters was well-intended and an ally of our community, we understand that these posters created real fear and tension amongst our members and members of the Japanese community on campus,” he said. “The reaction that ensued from our student communities reminds us that internment camps have a very frightening, real, and personal history in this country. These are parts of our past that must be addressed and discussed properly…We understand that although the situation was not intended to threaten the Muslim community, it may have affected you.” The MSA offers a variety of resources and support during this time.
Amidst heightened Islamophobia, the provocative gesture of solidarity is sobering. The discomfort surrounding the issue highlights the fear of a future threatened by an ignorance of the past and an indifference towards human dignity and life.
The action unifies the experiences of marginalized communities in the United States and serves as an ominous warning for Muslims and a reminder of the trauma that afflicted Japanese-Americans. The Trump administration has ushered an increase in anti-Semitism, violence against Native communities and a targeting of black and brown bodies, documented or otherwise. Perhaps the pain that resurfaced by the display of fliers at UCSD will facilitate a reflection within the storm.