“The good outnumber you and we always will.”
Posted on April 16, 2013
I sent a memo to the campus today regarding early reports that oficials investigating the Boston bombings were questioning a young Saudi student. We have over 200 Saudi students studying with us and I worried that they might feel vulnerable or be subjected to verbal abuse or worse by some ignorant individuals. Thus my memo:
To: University Community
From: Paul LeBlanc, SNHU President
Date: April 16, 2013
Subject: Set the Example
One of my first thoughts after the bombings in Boston yesterday was “Please don’t let this be an Islamic terrorist event.” Not because one misguided and violent “cause” or ideology is better than another, but because the Islamic world has been too often painted with an ignorant and intolerantly broad brush. Never more so than when we have an incident like yesterday’s.
There are early reports that the perpetrators of yesterday’s bombings might be Saudi Arabian. Investigators are also chasing down other leads and have hastened to say that they have not yet connected the bombings to the young Saudi student they interviewed. As you can imagine, they are interviewing hundreds and hundreds of people and chasing down every lead.
We have many Saudi students studying with us. I’ve gotten to know them, have met their families, and have visited their homes back in Saudi Arabia and they exemplify the very best traits of their culture and their religion: incredible hospitality, generosity, love of family, charity, and more. At a dinner in Riyadh I asked a Saudi education official why the King is spending millions of dollars to send tens of thousands of young Saudis to be educated in the West and he said, “It’s the West and the future or Bin Laden and the Middle Ages.” Our Saudi students are here because they are part of the solution.
My fear now is that if the bombings are tied to Saudis, our students will be subject to ignorant or even ill-treatment by Americans who in their outrage and fear confuse the ill-intent of a small minority of fundamentalists for the sentiments of a whole culture and people. It is irrational. When Eric Rudolph planted a bomb at the Atlanta Olympic Games and cited his Catholicism, we did not demean Catholics. When James Kopp went on a shooting spree at abortion clinics, those who sincerely oppose abortion rights were not considered dangerous and violent. When the KKK terrorized Blacks across the American South, we did not brand all Southerners racists. We were smarter than that and we should be smarter now, especially on a university campus. If we don’t set the example, who will?
To our American students, faculty, and staff, I ask you to be watchful on behalf of our Saudi and other Muslim students. They will feel vulnerable and maybe even unsafe and they need us to reassure them of their welcome and place within our community. They need to hear that we do not confuse the evil deeds of a tiny few with the mass of a culture and religion that only wants what we want: a good life for our children and ourselves and peace and prosperity. If you hear remarks that suggest otherwise, speak up. This community will not tolerate intolerance.
To our Saudi and Muslim students, this is your opportunity too to reach out to your American peers and let them know what I know: that you find yesterday’s acts as despicable as they do. And if you encounter any ill treatment in remark or deed, please report it immediately to Public Safety or to Student Affairs. This campus is your home and at times like these we are all family.
To all of our students, the Wellness Center is available to you as a resource should you need it.
I am asking our campus leaders – our athletes, our student government, our organizations, our veterans, our RAs – to really set the example for us all. I know our faculty and staff will join you in that effort. Let the events of yesterday bring out the best in American society. Otherwise, we let the terrorists win.
I have been heartened by the number of messages I recieved in response to my message and echoing those sentiments. A young clean shaven undergraduate, a member of the National Guard, approached me at lunch to thank me and say how he has befriended a number of Saudis with whom he plays soccer and he wanted to reassure them.
One of our Muslim students sent me this email:
Hi Mr. LeBlanc,
I truly appreciate your kind words below! What happened yesterday in Boston was shocking and heartbreaking not only because I am against such terrorism strikes, but also because I truly do love this country and appreciate the kindness of its people. I would like to quote the following verse of the Holy Quran that clearly condemns and stands against whoever attempts to kill an innocent soul. “Whoever kills an innocent soul; it is as if he killed the whole of mankind. And whoever saves one; it is as if he saved the whole of mankind” [The Holy Quran, 5:32]
The United States is such a great country that always deserves the best of the best all the time. I just wanted to convey this message on my behalf and on behalf of every Arab and Muslim student on campus that whoever did such an evil action has to feel the full weight of justice.
We hope and pray that the criminal or criminals who committed this heinous act are caught soon and brought to justice and punished to the greatest extent according to the laws of this country. Let terrorism & hatred lose and peace & love win.
God bless the States!
These responses echoed Patton Oswalt’s now viral Facebook posting and is a good summing up sentiment: https://www.facebook.com/pattonoswalt/posts/10151440800582655.
Worth a look. It’s last lines:
So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, “The good outnumber you, and we always will.”