The University of St. Thomas Undergraduate Student Government (USG) extended its “most sincere apologies to the Jewish community and all other members of the St. Thomas community,” when it took action on Sunday evening to censure its president. “We condemn all anti-Semitic rhetoric and commit ourselves to a welcoming and inclusive community.”
Members of the St. Thomas community have expressed surprise and disappointment since March 15 when 2014 anti-Semitic tweets from USG President Mayzer Muhammad resurfaced through social media and online news.
“I am sorry for my past remarks. I ask forgiveness from the members of the community who were affected by the statements that I made. I understand people are upset and were negatively affected by this, and I truly apologize,” Muhammad said on April 3. “The tweets I put out [in 2014] do not represent who I am or where I am at as a person today. I don’t believe what I said then.”
USG convened on April 2 and provided an open forum for St. Thomas undergraduate students to be heard and address the situation. According to the USG report following the meeting, there was “unanimous discontent with the anti-Semitic statements posted online.” Following the forum, the USG voted to censure Muhammad – condemning his past remarks on social media and his statement on March 15 offering explanation, which fell short for many students. A subsequent motion to remove him from leadership failed to gain the two-thirds majority required to pass.
“We understand that this has been a deeply divisive issue, with strong feelings on both sides,” said the USG in a statement. “As we come together as a student government, we will work tirelessly to ensure everyone on our campus feels safe, welcome and represented. We remain committed to our St. Thomas conviction of diversity, as we strive to create a vibrant, diverse community in which we can work for a more just and inclusive society.”
“The University of St. Thomas strongly denounces the 2014 statements that have circulated on social media – and all hateful anti-Semitic, anti-Christian or anti-Muslim posts,” Dr. Julie Sullivan said in an email to all faculty, staff and students. “Our Catholic intellectual tradition values the fundamental compatibility of faith and reason to foster meaningful dialogue directed toward the flourishing of human culture – culture that respects a vibrant diverse community and works toward an inclusive society.”
Muhammad credits his time at St. Thomas as crucial to helping him grow in his understanding and respect of other faiths and interfaith dialogue. As a member of USG, an orientation leader, resident adviser, and throughout extensive work with the Muslim-Christian Dialogue Center and the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning, Muhammad said he has fostered connections to the Jewish community, gained a better overall understanding of the shared humanity of people from different faiths and learned how we all can work together to promote the greater good.
“I feel terrible that the words were hateful, and I want to do anything I can to mend the relationship that has been compromised because of these statements,” Muhammad said. “I really want to work with the community to mend the relationship, to work together moving forward and to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.”