Muslim organizer accepted—then rejected—from a MN government advisory group on genocide

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EXCLUSIVE: Why did Minnesota accept and then reject a Muslim organizer for its genocide curriculum committee?

She says it's because she's pro-Palestine.

 

Tricia Crimmins

Tech

Posted on Apr 18, 2024   Updated on Apr 18, 2024, 2:26 pm CDT

Asma Nizami, the Muslim Minnesota organizer behind the state’s uncommitted primary vote effort, says she was accepted and then suddenly rejected from the Minnesota Department of Education’s Holocaust and Genocide working group.

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Nizami said the situation—which the state’s Department of Education called an error—was intentional and targeted. And her experience has provoked outrage online.

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On March 28, Nizami was accepted to the Education on the Holocaust, Genocide of Indigenous Peoples and Other Genocides Working Group.

She received an email and phone call from the state’s Department of Education congratulating her on her acceptance and was also listed publicly as a member of the group.

But on April 15, over two weeks after her acceptance, Nizami received another email from the Department of Education, telling her that her acceptance email was a “clerical error.”

“Yesterday they sent an email to all applicants letting them know who was accepted. I was on the list,” Nizami tweeted yesterday. “Today, they emailed me saying that was ‘in error’. I was the ONLY Muslim woman.”

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The working group aims to “identify gaps in Holocaust and genocide education” in the state’s schools. As identified in the Department of Education’s official description, administrators planned to accept between one and three individuals from specific communities or industries, including the state’s Tribal Nations Education Committee, the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, and Minnesota non-profit organizations.

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The group was also looking to bring on teachers and educators who had experience teaching middle and high school students about the Holocaust and other genocides.

Nizami works as the Advocacy Director for Reviving Sisterhood, a nonprofit organization that trains Muslim women on leadership, civic engagement, and community organizing. She is also a former educator, worked in Minnesota public and private schools, and focuses on combatting both Islamophobia and antisemitism.

Minnesota has a Muslim population of almost 115,000, the seventh-largest in the U.S. In an interview with the Daily Dot, Nizami said she was surprised that the Muslim community and other groups, like Hmong people, who have experienced genocide, were not included in the list of prioritized groups the program planned to include.

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In fact, she said that when she was accepted on April 1, she and her contemporaries were upset that she would be the only Muslim voice in the group.

“I can give you the names of half a dozen people that I personally asked to apply, and that didn’t get in, and who were really angry,” Nizami told the Daily Dot. “We were mad that I was the only one.”

When she received the email from the Department of Education telling her that her acceptance was void, she said she knew that it was because “there are groups that do not want me and don’t want Palestinian voices represented” in the working group.

“People are afraid of having pro-Palestinian voices on at the table. And I think it’s because of my activism,” Nizami told the Daily Dot. “It’s because there is a clear effort in trying to silence any voice that talks about Palestine as what is happening right now on genocide.”

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As a result of Uncommitted MN, which pushed a protest vote against President Joe Biden in support of a ceasefire in Gaza, Nizami said she received hateful messages and comments on social media. In response to a recent tweet of hers about Uncommitted MN, X users called her a “Jew hater,” someone who doesn’t belong in America, and selfish. One person said they “wouldn’t even spit on [her] if [she] were on fire.”

“It is the worst that has ever been in the past six and a half months,” Nizami said of the online harassment she receives. “It has never been this bad.”

Still, she shared her experience with the state Department of Education because she “knew people would be pissed.”

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“I do think something big happened and there are people who want to know what happened,” Nizami said of her sudden rejection from the working group. “The Department of Education really screwed up, and they’re acting like what has happened [was] in error.”

She also said the Department of Education is not responding to her emails and calls about the situation. The department did not respond to a Daily Dot request for comment.

“I think they’re sitting with their tail between their legs,” Nizami said. “And freaking out.”


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*First Published: Apr 18, 2024, 2:00 pm CDT
 
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