My name is Golnaz Fakhimi, and I’m the Legal Director of Muslim Advocates. After over a decade as a social justice and human rights lawyer on the frontlines, I made the choice to join Muslim Advocates out of a belief in this organization’s essential mission. My first day was October 2, days before the Hamas attacks against Israeli civilians and the subsequent collective punishment and unfolding genocide of Palestinian civilians by the Israeli government. The U.S. solidarity movement for the human rights of Palestinians has been snowballing in its depth, breadth, and urgency. I’m proud to say that Muslim Advocates is part of that movement, pronouncing its solidarity with countless allies and responding to the needs of the student activists here in the U.S. who are the movement’s backbone. As always, our work at this moment depends on your commitment and support.
Here are just some of the initiatives on which we’ve been working:
- Seeking Transparency Into Israeli Governmental Impunity: Last week, together with partner organizations, we sought records from federal agencies relating to the Israeli government’s violation of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which requires it treat all U.S. citizens seeking to visit Israel the same—regardless of their ethnicity or national origin. Our effort is prompted by reporting that the Israeli government has been denying Palestinian-Americans entry into Israel from the West Bank—in violation of the terms of the VWP and with no related consequences from the United States. Israeli governmental impunity and related U.S. complicity in this context tie to related impunity and complicity driving the unfolding genocide of Palestinian civilians and underscoring the student-led movement in the U.S. for Palestinian human rights.
- Legal Counsel to Student Dissenters: We’re providing legal representation to a chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine on a big public university campus that’s targeting its activities. We’re also counseling a Muslim Students’ Association on that campus and have been counseling students on campuses in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and North Carolina about rights and remedies available under federal anti-discrimination laws.
- Department of Education Advocacy During the Current Crisis: We’ve made recommendations to the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) about statements and guidance it could issue to protect students’ rights in this critical time. We’ve also been working with the Center for Faith Based & Neighborhood Partnerships within the DOE to coordinate listening sessions between the agency and university students who are experiencing harms and risks on their campuses because of their speech, activism, identity, and/or perceived identity.
- Building Community Power Through Student Trainings: We’ve been providing weekly Know Your Rights trainings to student activists, advising them about speech and protest, campus and law enforcement scrutiny, doxxing, and more—including in parts of the country underserved by legal-advocacy organizations.
- Fighting Efforts to Criminalize Protected Student Speech: We organized a coalition of social-justice organizations that wrote an open letter to hundreds of colleges and universities across the country, urging that they reject calls to investigate campus chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine for putative violations of racist and overbroad terrorism-related legal frameworks.
- State Policy Engagement During the Current Crisis: In collaboration with allied organizations, we’re directing advocacy to the officials designated by the Governor of New York to undertake a review of the policies on antisemitism and discrimination of the largest urban public university system in the nation, the City University of New York.
We are living through a crisis that reminds us of the very reasons Muslim Advocates was founded nearly two decades ago. I’m honored to lead the dedicated attorneys of Muslim Advocates, who are nimble, effective, and unfailingly attentive to our brave clients, communities, and cherished partners in these brutal times. Our work is needed now more than ever, and so is your partnership. Please consider making a gift to support our efforts for the coming year.