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Muslim student who put 9/11 memorial flags into trash bags rails against 'Islamophobia' while defending his 'Flag Relocation'

Image source: Twitter video screenshot via @yaf

A Muslim student who removed nearly 3,000 miniature U.S. flags from a 9/11 memorial at Washington University in St. Louis — and was caught on video carrying them away in trash bags — railed against "Islamophobia" as he defended his "Flag Relocation."

What are the details?

Fadel Alkilani, who's vice president of finance for the Student Union, was seen by another student, Nathaniel Hope, removing the flags Saturday morning — the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks — and Hope began recording video showing Alkilani holding multiple plastic bags containing the flags, the college's newspaper reported.

Alkilani defended his actions in a formal statement Saturday night, which called it a "Flag Relocation Incident" in the title.

"Muslims such as I have faced fear, harassment, and Islamophobia from those who unjustly use the victims of 9/11 as a political cudgel," he wrote. "Those who died during 9/11 deserve better than to be used as a political tool by those who seek to excuse American imperialism and Islamophobia."

Image source: Twitter video screenshot via @yaf

He added:

Since 9/11, Islamophobic hate crimes have been higher than they ever were before. The United States invaded countries in the Middle East and Central Asia, and over 900,000 people have been killed because of the wars the United States has propagated. 37 million people have been displaced, with some reports stating that number reaches up to 59 million. Any memorial of 9/11 that does not contend with these facts is not only incomplete, but it also amplifies pro-imperialist sentiment and actively disrespects those who have died because of American Invasion. A memorial which uses U.S. flags is especially insidious, as it does not recognize those who have fallen, but uses a symbol that was on the shoulders of those who are responsible for the deaths of 900,000 people, and uses the innocent lives lost during 9/11 as a political prop upholding American hegemony.

Image source: Twitter video screenshot via @yaf

Alkilani also claimed he did nothing wrong — and was "verbally and physically harassed":

The misinformation that is currently circulating on YAF's page states that I was "stealing" the flags. This is due to a WashU College Republicans member, taking a video of me collecting flags in plastic bags. However, I had no intention of removing the flags from the Mudd Field area, and my full protest did not have the chance to be actualized. My planned protest was to place the bags of flags on Mudd field, along with various statistics (including those below) explaining the human cost of 9/11 in the past 20 years. On the sides of the bags, some writing may be visible, but the full statement was not outlined at the time of the video. I did not deface, destroy, damage, nor steal any flags, nor did I interfere with any registered event time. I assert that I did not violate any University Code of Conduct policy, though the conduct process is undergoing. Additionally, I was verbally and physically harassed by numerous WashU students and WUPD officers, whom I plan to report through official channels.

Anything else?

Students said Alkilani tried to destroy the memorial Friday night, but campus police ordered him to stop, Fox News reported.

The school condemned Alkilani's actions in a statement to the paper: "We were disappointed to learn about the disruption to the 9/11 display on Mudd Field. We condemn the interference with the expression of support by the College Republicans for the victims of the national tragedy that took place 20 years ago today."

Chancellor Andrew Martin said much the same, the school paper reported Sunday: "I want to make it very clear that, as an institution, we find the actions of this student to be reprehensible. The removal of the flags impeded the ability of individuals to commemorate the lives lost on 9/11 and to process the trauma of that day."

While Martin didn't mention Alkilani by name, he did say the school would investigate the incident.

College Republicans president Nick Rodriguez said Alkilani "made a mockery of one of the most somber days in American history" and should be disciplined.

"At minimum, I believe he should be removed from both SU and his [resident advisor] position, as what does it say to be a top American institution, and have yourself represented by a student leader who has no respect for property, campus traditions or the remembrance of thousands of lost lives," Rodriguez said in a statement. "Today is about remembering the tragedy, 20 years ago to the day, not to make a political statement. Any reason he can conjure to remove the flags I find ludicrous."

Junior Reagan Steirn was among those who gathered with a large American flag on Mudd Field Saturday evening, the paper reported — and she was not happy about Alkilani's actions: "I'm livid. With a leadership role, someone doing those actions and showing his disrespect will just allow other students on campus to do the same thing, when in this situation it's just not okay to do that."

The paper also reported that Muslim students are saying they fear for their safety and are concerned about the rise of Islamophobic rhetoric from fellow students and from strangers on social media in the wake of the incident.

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