A Jewish human rights group and a pro-Israel organization criticized the efforts of a University of San Diego professor to raise awareness about “Islamophobia” by encouraging students to wear a yellow Star of David with the word “Muslim” and the Muslim crescent moon symbol drawn on it.
The Times of San Diego reported last week that associate professor of theology and religious studies Bahar Davary led some 100 students and faculty members in the silent protest against anti-Muslim statements by wearing the type of yellow stars Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany.
Following questions raised in reports on conservative news sites including Legal Insurrection and the Washington Free Beacon, the private Catholic university issued a statement explaining that the class project on Islamophobia wasn’t meant to compare the Muslim experience in America to Jews during World War II.
“In no way was the project’s symbol intended to make an analogy between the current situation of Muslims in the U.S. to that of Jews in Germany and wider Europe before the Holocaust,” the University of San Diego posted on Facebook.
“The project’s symbol was an attempt to demonstrate solidarity among Muslims, Jews and Christians. Professor Bahar Davary regrets any misunderstandings that may have resulted from this class project,” the university said.
Stand With Us, a pro-Israel organization active on U.S. campuses, on Sunday called the redesigned yellow star “inappropriate and shocking.”
“While protests against anti-Muslim bigotry are understandable and legitimate, using the Holocaust in this inappropriate and shocking way serves to trivialize and deny meaning to the unspeakable horrors that Jews suffered at the hands of Nazi Germany,” said Stand With Us San Diego area director Sara Schoonmaker.
William Jacobson, a Cornell University law professor who regularly writes about the issues of free speech, anti-Semitism and anti-Israel activity on campuses nationwide, wrote at Legal Insurrection, “The irony, of course, is that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem was a big supporter and fan of Hitler, and the Muslim world is a hotbed of anti-Semitic propaganda and agitation.”
“Jews routinely are demonized for being Jews, and the ancient Jewish communities in Muslim areas were expelled after the creation of Israel,” Jacobson wrote, adding, “In Europe, Jews cannot walk the streets in many places while displaying any Jewish symbol or even traditional Jewish attire for fear of harassment by young Muslims.”
Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center told the Free Beacon that the star “imagery is off” and explained that under the Nazis, Jews “had to wear it under penalty of death.”
The University of San Diego associate professor issued a statement through a campus spokeswoman explaining that she did not wish to diminish the plight of those who were killed in the Holocaust.
Instead, her goal was to put a spotlight on the danger of “marking any group of people as the ‘other,’” she said according to the Free Beacon.
The Times of San Diego reported that the project was prompted by recent statements about Muslims by Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson.
The newspaper also noted that Davary advised her students not to wear the star off campus, apparently aware of the controversy it might stir.