Washington University student throws away 9/11 flags in protest. Fadel Alkilani defends actions as college Republicans demand he be expelled.
Disconcert came to the fore after a Washington University student senator was filmed over the weekend, trashing thousands of American flags at a Missouri memorial commemorating the lives lost in the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the garbage — calling the display a ‘political prop upholding American hegemony.’
Fadel Alkilani was seen stuffing the miniature flags in garbage bags on Saturday on campus at St. Louis, Missouri, before being confronted by another student filming him, Student Life reported.
‘[Alkilani] said that [the display] was in violation of school rules. He was also saying profanity,’ Nathaniel Hope, a member of the university’s College Republicans, told conservative youth organization Young America’s Foundation.
The College Republicans had placed the 2,977 flags on Mudd Field ahead of the 20th anniversary of the attacks which fell on Saturday.
Footage posted by YAF to Twitter (see below) decried Alkilani’s actions as ‘despicable.’ The university’s College Republicans in turn demanded the student be expelled.
WOW: A student senator at @WUSTL was caught on video throwing away 2,977 American flags from conservative students’ 9/11: Never Forget Project memorial.
— YAF (@yaf) September 11, 2021
9/11 as a political prop
But Alkilani, vice president of finance of the university’s Student Union, defended his actions, saying he sought to bring attention to the rise of Islamophobia and criticize US military intervention in the Middle East.
‘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,’ he said in a statement in protest.
‘A memorial which uses US 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.’
He added that the 9/11 victims ‘deserve better than to be used as a political tool by those who seek to excuse American imperialism and Islamophobia.’
Adding, ‘They died for no reason, suddenly and traumatically, and they should be grieved, not by political symbols, but by their names and faces. I also want to extend my condolences to all those who have died and been injured, both American and not, since 9/11.’
School officials, responded, saying they were ‘disappointed’, while recognizing the student’s right to freedom of expression.
‘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,’ executive director Susan McGinn said in a statement.
Social media responds
Adding, ‘We value freedom of expression in all forms and will work to ensure that all students are able to express their points of view through appropriate channels without disrupting the rights of others to show support for causes they care about.’
School officials declined to say whether there would be any ramifications, academic or otherwise pursuant to the flag removing.
The incident led to social media awash with comments.
Posted one user, ‘Not surprised this is a university campus. Removing flags from a country that has afforded you so many opportunities. How ungrateful and above all, disrespectful.’
Wrote another, ‘He will be hired by Apple, Nike, NBA, Google, Twitter, Disney.’
Posted another commentator, ‘Fadel Alkilani has a valid point – a 9/11 memorial that fails to recognize the mistakes our people & government made, & acts of willful malice, which also killed innocent people, is whitewashing history.’
Alkilani has since defended his actions, decrying claims he violated or defaced removed flags, saying that ‘there is currently a massive harassment campaign propagated primarily by Washington University College Republicans, as well as the national Young American’s Foundation (YAF)’ against him.
Adding, ‘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 explaining the human cost of 9/11 in the past 20 years.’