On Israel and Hamas, South Asian Students Fear Speaking Out

American universities are usually safe spaces to discuss ideas and believes. Students and professors say: not anymore.

columbia university
Students at Columbia University on October 12, 2023 (Heather Chen)

Dayita More


November 15, 2023


8 min

As B*, a Pakistani student at New York University, was walking to class last month, a man almost spat at her. Her friends told her that people had pushed them into subway doors. After October 7, when Hamas killed 1,400 people in Israel and took over 200 people hostage, Muslim students like B*, who wears a hijab and has chosen to remain anonymous, have experienced greater threats to their safety. 

Though college campuses are usually a safe space to discuss politics and new ideas, students worldwide are reporting more tense campus environments. In the U.S., anti-Semitic and Islamophobic incidents in major cities have increased. There were 66 reported anti-Semitic hate crimes in New York City in October, compared to 13 in September. The Council of Islamic Relations has reported a 216% increase in requests for help and reports of bias compared to 2022. 

Many students in the U.S., both Jewish and Muslim, have been attending classes online and reducing their online presence, fearing for their safety. Students are also scared to speak out because of doxxing, or when others publish private information about an individual publicly. At Harvard and Columbia, trucks with the names and faces of pro-Palestinian activists have been circulating. The Juggernaut contacted multiple South Asian college students in the U.S., but many declined to speak. Those who did refused to go on the record.

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