University Cancels ‘American Sniper’ Screening After Protest
The University of Michigan canceled a scheduled movie screening of American Sniper Tuesday after student activists posted a collective letter decrying the film as dangerous propaganda that promoted “negative and misleading stereotypes” of Muslims.
The letter from the Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) and Muslim students on campus, signed by a total of almost 300 students, accused the university of “tolerating dangerous anti-Muslim and anti-MENA propaganda.” Saying that hate crimes against the groups are “growing increasingly common,” the letter blames American Sniper for contributing to “a culture of Islamophobia in America” and potentially creating an “unsafe space” for Muslim and MENA students.
Here is the complete text of the letter :
As self-identified Middle Eastern & North African (MENA) and/or Muslim students on campus, we are particularly disturbed to hear that the University of Michigan’s Center for Campus Involvement will be showing the movie American Sniper at UMix on Friday April 10th. By showing this movie, we feel that our university is tolerating dangerous anti-Muslim and anti-MENA propaganda.
Anti-Muslim and anti-MENA hate crimes are growing increasingly common. These incidents create an unsafe space that does not allow for positive dialogue and triggers U of M students. Examples like the recent Chapel Hill shooting, which took the lives of three Arab American Muslim students, Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha, contribute to this lack of safety and space for Muslim and/or MENA students. Deah’s sister, Dr. Suzanne Barakat, has publicly stated how American Sniper has contributed to a culture of Islamophobia in America. Although we respect the right to freedom of speech, we believe that with this right comes responsibility: responsibility of action, intention, and outcome.
The movie American Sniper not only tolerates but promotes anti-Muslim and anti-MENA rhetoric and sympathizes with a mass killer. Chris Kyle was a racist who took a disturbing stance on murdering Iraqi civilians. Middle Eastern characters in the film are not lent an ounce of humanity and watching this movie is provocative and unsafe to MENA and Muslim students who are too often reminded of how little the media and world values their lives. What we instead should offer is compassion and respect towards others.
On Tuesday, the university’s Center for Campus Involvement made clear that it agrees with the MENA and Muslim students, apologizing for “causing harm” to students and vowing to take more time in the future to “screen for content that can negatively stereotype a group.” The MENA and Muslim group posted the response, declaring “Mission accomplished!”:
Student reactions have clearly articulated that this is neither the venue nor the time to show this movie. Therefore, we have elected to pull the film from this week’s program and screen another movie in its place that we believe better creates the fun, engaging atmosphere we seek, without excluding valued members of our community.
We deeply regret causing harm to members of our community, and appreciate the thoughtful feedback provided to us by students and staff alike. We in the Center for Campus Involvement and the UMix Late Night program did not intend to exclude any students or communities on campus through showing this film. Nevertheless, as we know, intent and impact can be very different things. While our intent was to show a film, the impact of the content was harmful, and made students feel unsafe and unwelcome at our program. UMix should always be a safe space for students to engage, unwind, and create community with others, and we commit to listening to and learning from our community in the interest of fostering that environment.
The Center for Campus Involvement and its UMix Late Night program are dedicated to providing a positive, fun, and engaging student experience for all students on campus. We will take time to deeper understand and screen for content that can negatively stereotype a group.
H/T The College Fix.