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College Pressures Students To Not Post 9/11 Posters Because May Hurt Muslims’ Feelings

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article, including its headline, stated that Ripon College had banned the poster from being displayed on campus. That statement, though widely reported, was incorrect. College officials strongly urged that the posters not be displayed, but no ban was issued — in fact, the college does not appear even to have a process in place to issue such a ban. Early Saturday afternoon, after the error was brought to our attention, we corrected the article’s headline and some of the details in the article to clarify those facts, and added a statement from Ripon College to clarify its position on the display of the poster. We apologize for the error.

Honoring the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks is an admirable cause, but one university says no matter how honorable the intent, such a memorial shouldn’t be done with images of the World Trade Center attacks.

Administrators at Ripon College in Ripon, Wisconsin, have ruled that posters created for Young America’s Foundation’s “9/11: Never Forget Project” create an “environment” in which “students from a Muslim background would feel singled out and/or harassed.”

YAF undertakes its 9/11 memorial project at campuses around the country every year. The posters created for last year’s 9/11 remembrance also sparked complaints.

The center image simply contains the phrase “Never Forget.” Among the images surrounding the center square are images of Americans being captured in Iran in 1979, the World Trade Center in flames in 2001, the murder of Ambassador Christopher Stevens in Benghazi in 2012, American journalist James Foley just minutes before he was beheaded by an Islamic State group terrorist in 2014, the aftermath of the deadly Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016, American reporter Daniel Pearl just before his murder at the hands of Muslim terrorists in 2002, an image of the USS Cole after it was attacked by a suicide bomber in 2000, and images of the U.S. Marine barracks that was bombed in 1983.

Poster remembering multiple events of radical Islamic terror, including the World Trade Center attack on Sept. 11, 2001.
YAF’s Never Forget Poster (Young America’s Foundation / yaf.org screen shot)
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There is no direct reference to Muslims in the text of the poster.

The posters displayed at Ripon sparked complaints to the school’s “bias incident team” over the posters’ perceived anti-Muslim tone.

According to YAF, administrators claimed objections were “raised to the administration and the bias incident team about the environment that that (the poster) creates … That because of the focus, in this case relentlessly on one religious organization, one religious group, one religious identity — in associating that one religious identity with terrorist attacks which go back far before 9/11 and after 9/11 — creates for some students here an environment which they feel like they are not able to learn.”

A member of Ripon College’s Bias Protocol Board seemed to be looking for ways to ban the posters beyond the fact some students claim they were uncomfortable with them, YAF said.

Do the college's arguments hold any merit?

“There is nothing that this poster, in particular, adds to the conversation about 9/11, or about the politics of terrorism, or about national security or responses to it that couldn’t be done easily and more constructively without it,” one member of the board told YAF.

School administrators also questioned some of the other images used on the poster beyond the World Trade Center photo.

“Some things (on the poster) don’t have anything to do with 9/11 — ISIS, for example,” claimed one administrator.

“I’m not sure I think the Iran hostage issue was Islamic terrorism,” said another.

The administration also said the poster singled out Islamic terrorists, even though board members claimed Islamic terrorism “represents a small percentage of the terrorist attacks that happened to this country,” and the poster draws attention to “a very small picture of a specific religion or nationality instead of the larger viewpoint.”

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“It seems like the only terrorist activities brought up in this poster are those done by extremist Islamic groups, and so if I’m Muslim on this campus … it sends the message that all terrorism happens by Muslims,” administrators said, according to YAF.

One administrator said the YAF’s focus on remembering the victims of violence was admirable, but too narrow.

“The intent is admirable to talk about why are we killing each other,” an administrator said. “That’s very admirable, and I support that, but what about school shootings? We’ve had almost a school shooting a day for the last 10 days, and we’re continuing to up the body count.”

A statement from the YAF claimed Ripon College was trying to “sanitize” the key facts from 9/11.

“This attempt by Ripon College’s ‘Bias Protocol Board’ to sanitize the truth out of remembering the anniversary of Sept. 11 proves the necessity of YAF’s iconic 9/11: Never Forget Project, as well as the need for bold YAF activists,” Young America’s Foundation spokesman Spencer Brown told the Washington Examiner.

“YAF’s leadership in creating meaningful memorials on this important date in our nation’s history ensures that the rising generation remembers the 2,977 innocent lives lost. The administrators’ reliance on feelings rather than facts betrays their intention to cower from the truth rather than highlight the scourge of radical Islamist terror for what it is: evil.”

In a statement to The Associated Press, college spokeswoman Melissa Anderson refuted the claim that any ban had been issued.

“Anderson said the bias incident team did not take any action during the meeting,” the AP reported. “She characterized the meeting as a discussion and said the team tried to explain why some people might view the posters as biased against certain people. She added that the university offered up its student marketing resources to create a new poster.”

“There was no ban,” Anderson said of the 9/11 memorial. “The meeting did not result in any action.”

In fact checking this article, Snopes made the claim that “the poster is also not a ‘9/11 memorial’ as such, since 9/11 is only one of eight incidents depicted on the poster.” Had the poster been designed for display on April 12 or June 22, we would likely agree. However, the fact that the poster was designed to be displayed on and near the anniversary of the worst terror attack on American soil and includes a depiction of that attack — along with other acts of radical Islamic terror — adds sufficient context, in our minds, to allow the poster to be described as a “9/11 memorial.” — Ed. note

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Scott Kelnhofer is a writer for The Western Journal and Conservative Tribune. A native of Milwaukee, he currently resides in Phoenix.
Scott Kelnhofer is a writer for The Western Journal and Conservative Tribune. He has more than 20 years of experience in print and broadcast journalism. A native of Milwaukee, he has resided in Phoenix since 2012.
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