CAIR-NJ Condemns Smears Targeting Rutgers Prof, Westfield BOE VP Sahar Aziz
(SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ, 2/22/2022) – The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ) today expressed solidarity with Rutgers University professor and Westfield Board of Education Vice President Sahar Aziz, Esq., who has come under attack for retweets about Palestine.
CAIR-NJ also condemned those smearing Aziz for her stance on Palestinian and defended Aziz’s right to free speech. Aziz retweeted a statement by Edo Konrad: “Chanting ‘from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’ is not antisemitic. Rather, it’s an invitation for Palestinians and Jews to imagine themselves as free and equal in this land. Why is that so terrifying to many?”
Aziz said the retweet is part of her work as a law professor and expert on the Middle East, which she said is separate from her work as a school board member.
School board officials said that tweet and others do not violate New Jersey’s School Ethics Act or any law.
“We’re confident that there has been no violation of any state law or board bylaw,” Galligan said. “The tweets were made on Sahar’s personal account, and they aren’t in violation.”
Board attorney Derlys Gutierrez said, “Ms. Aziz’s work posts — there’s nothing illegal about them, and we’re not going to make any further comment on them.”
SEE: A Call For Better Holocaust Education in Westfield, Questions Over Mideast Tweets
SEE: Sahar Aziz Esq., Professor of Law and Chancellor’s Social Justice Scholar
In a statement, CAIR-NJ Executive Director Selaedin Maksut said:
“Professor Aziz is a distinguished academic and attorney who is being targeted with ugly smears for exercising her right to free speech and defending Palestinian human rights.
“We stand with Professor Aziz and condemn those who shamelessly smear her name for speaking the truth on Palestine.
“To claim her retweet in question is problematic or even antisemitic is disingenuous and dishonest. Such baseless attacks should never be tolerated.
“Last year, others similarly attempted to silence two Clifton Board of Education members for voicing solidarity with Palestine but failed in their efforts after the school ethics commission dismissed the complaints.
“These desperate attempts to take away our right to free speech are deeply troubling, and should never be entertained or taken seriously by our elected officials or the public.”
“Elected officials and all Americans have the right to be critical of foreign governments and political ideologies, especially those promoting racial and religious apartheid and the denial of basic human rights.”
In a statement, Islamic Center of Union County President Dr. Wail Rasheed said:
“We stand in solidarity with Professor Sahar Aziz. The Professor has done nothing wrong. She has every right to be vocal on her personal social media and comment on issues that are relevant to her area of expertise and we condemn all forms of racism, including antisemitism. But to equate the Professor’s posts with antisemitism is inaccurate and unjust.”
Maksut said the School Ethics Commission issued a motion to dismiss a complaint against Clifton BOE members, Fahim Abedrabbo and Feras Awwad, accusing them of anti-Semitism for their public statements in support of Palestine. This expression of free speech does not impact their duties or capacity as board members.
He welcomed the dismissal and argued the complaint was a baseless smear attempting to stop public figures from fairly and openly critiquing the Israeli government and Zionism as a political ideology.
Maksut added that the critique of Israel or Zionism is not equivalent to antisemitism, and thus is protected by the constitutional right to free speech.
SEE: Elisabeth Schwartz Complainant v. Fahim Abedrabbo and Feras Awwad Clifton Board of Education, Passaic County, Respondents
CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.