The Salt Lake City Weekly reports:
Rashad Nijim hails from California but also holds citizenship in Palestine, where his parents are from and where he takes frequent trips, especially during the summer. But when he gave Utah Valley University administration a flag of Palestine to display in the Hall of Flags alongside the flags of other students’ countries, he was given the run-around for months before being told that, among other issues, the flag would be offensive to Israeli students. Now, Nijim has taken his message to an online petition site and is rallying to get the administration to celebrate the diversity of all of its students.
Nijim, a 21-year-old aviation administration student at UVU, says he doesn’t understand why school administrators thought a flag would open up an Orem front in the Middle East conflict when he says the flag is just a representation of his people and his culture.
“Iran wants to wipe Israel off the map and that might offend someone, yet its flag is right next to Israel’s in the Hall of Flags,” Nijim says in disbelief.
The debate started in late 2011 when a friend of Nijim’s in the student government recommended he donate his flag to the university’s Hall of Flags, which displays dozens of flags in a long windowed hallway connecting the school’s Pope Science Building and Business Administration Building. When Nijim offered to donate the flag, he says, school administrators told him they would get back to him. After a few months of not hearing back, Nijim reached out to administration again, only to be told, he says, that the school wouldn’t display the flag since Palestine lacked recognition by the United Nations.
When the United Nations granted Palestine nonvoting observer status in November 2012, Nijim asked once again for his flag to be displayed. A meeting was eventually arranged between Nijim and Stephen Crook, the director of International Student Services.
Nijim says Crook offered a number of reasons why the school couldn’t display the flag, including that there wasn’t room in the Hall of Flags—a point Nijim disputes. He says Crook also said that for the flag to be displayed, Palestine would have to be recognized as a country by the U.N., not just as an observer.
Nijim takes issue with that stipulation, since the hall displays the flags of Guam and Puerto Rico, which are territories of the United States and not U.N.-recognized countries.
He says he was also told that the flag might offend Israeli students or conservatives in the community, especially since Utah is proudly “pro-Israel.”
Read the rest here.
(h/t Richard Nasser)