Don’t fight hate with hate, student government president urges

September 11, 2002

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt’s first Arab-American Muslim student body president urged her fellow students and other members of the University community to “not fight hate with hate” in response to the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

“We owe this to the people who lost their lives in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania. It was hate which killed them,” Samar Ali told a group of about 250 who gathered outside the student center on the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America in which nearly 2,800 were killed.

Ali, the daughter of a Syrian mother and Palestinian father, said her anger lingers that “the people who committed this murder were people who hid behind my religion. If someone has a political agenda, they need to call it what it is and not disguise it in the name of a religion or use the religion to achieve their political goals,” she said.

“I can assure you that is not what Islam is about. Along with all the lives they destroyed that day, with all the hatred in their hearts, they also massacred the ideas of the religion which they claimed to follow.”

Ali, who was elected president of the Student Government Association last spring, was one of several speakers at the lunchtime program.

Chancellor Gordon Gee urged those gathered “to reflect, before the events we mark today become too far away in memory, too mediated, repeated too many times on the news to seem any longer real. … Please use this day for thought that follows upon emotion, for dialogue that follows upon thought, for action that follows upon dialogue.”

The ceremony began with a powerful rendition of Pink Floyd’s “On the Turning Away” sung by a student a capella group. “Don’t accept that what’s happening is just a case of others’ suffering or you’ll find that you are joining in the turning away,” the seven members of the Dodecs sang.

Before the microphone was opened to anyone who had thoughts to share, the Swinging Dores, another a capella group, sang “God Bless America.”

Members of the Vanderbilt community then used the open mic to tell of their own losses, hopes, appreciation of America, calls for reconciliation and pleas to help others.

The University’s daylong remembrance began with a solemn ceremony on Alumni Lawn. With the bell of Kirkland Hall chiming, students, faculty, staff, administrators and others paused as they began their day.

As a “flame of hope” burned and horns and drums played by Blair School of Music sang the dramatic notes of Aaron Copeland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, the crowd of about 500 stood in silence before an honor guard of ROTC cadets lowered the American the flag to half-staff at 7:46 a.m., the time of the first attack on the World Trade Center.

Before dispersing, some stopped at a table to write their own thoughts on pieces of cloth and hung them on a nearby tree that last year bore similar messages and has become known as the “Hope and Remembrance Tree.” Student organizations planned to staff the table throughout the day.

Other activities planned later in the day included a campus-wide multifaith/multicultural “Service for Peaceful Tomorrows,” featuring poetry readings and music at 4 p.m. and a panel discussion from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Sarratt Cinema on perspectives a year later.

Contact: Elizabeth Latt, 615-322-NEWS,

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