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CUNY School of Law Student Speaker Accused of Hate Speech

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Fatima Mousa Mohammed, a Yemen-born and Queens-raised CUNY Law student, delivered a commencement speech during the CUNY School of Law’s May 2023 graduation which drew criticism of her and the CUNY system.

In a publicly released statement by CUNY’s board of Trustees and Chancellor Félix Matos Rodríguez, both parties condemned the speech and labeled it as “hate speech.”

“Hate speech, however, should not be confused with free speech and has no place on our campuses or in our city, our state or our nation,” the statement read. “The remarks by a student-selected speaker at the CUNY Law School graduation, unfortunately, fall into the category of hate speech as they were a public expression of hate toward people and communities based on their religion, race or political affiliation. The Board of Trustees of the City University of New York condemns such hate speech.”

Palestine Legal, along with 13 other civil rights organizations, issued a letter to CUNY raising concerns about CUNY’s statement labeling her words as “hate speech.” It noted that Mohammed’s speech received a round of applause from the audience during the ceremony.

The Dean’s Office of CUNY Law reportedly reviewed and approved Mohammed’s speech as part of the institution’s new school policy.

The speech garnered the attention of different Israeli groups and multiple news outlets including Fox News. In an interview with Fox News, CUNY Professor Jeffery Lax, co-founder of the group “Students and Faculty for Equality,” criticized the speech calling it “disturbing.”

“I have to say, it was the most disturbing commencement speech I’ve ever heard in my entire life, and I’ve been doing this a long time,” Lax said.

The speech also got the attention of lawmakers on both sides of the political spectrum including Democratic congressman Ritchie Torres from the Bronx and Republican lawmakers including Senator Ted Cruz, who condemned the speech, The New York Times reported.

Despite the pushback Mohammed has received for her controversial speech, the CUNY law graduate has garnered supporters as well. “Within Our Lifetime”, a pro-Palestine advocacy group, issued a press release regarding Mohammed’s speech showing their support for the CUNY Law graduate.

“Fatima was subjected to a coordinated national smear campaign and accused by CUNY’s own Board of Trustees of committing ‘hate speech’ after she criticized Israeli state violence in her commencement address on May 30, 2023,” the statement read. “The video #WeStandWithFatima speaks back to this accusation in a strong, collective voice, including powerful scholars, organizers and public figures such as Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Robin D.G. Kelley, Laura Whitehorn, Noura Erakat, Judith Butler, Corey Robin, Dave Zirin, Ijeoma Oluo and more.”

CUNY’s School of Law Jewish Law Student Association e-board members issued a statement standing in solidarity with Mohammed believing she has been the target of “violent and racist attacks.”

“The CUNY School of Law Jewish Law Students Association stands in solidarity with our friend and classmate Fatima, who is currently being targeted by a racist hate campaign from external organizations after delivering a commencement speech that addressed the struggle for Palestinian freedom, ” JLA said. Our class, including its members in the Jewish Law Students Association, proudly chose Fatima as CUNY Law’s commencement speaker.”

The social media page, “cuny4palastine”, a networking Instagram page geared towards organizing “Palestinian liberation” has posted many “#WeStandWithFatima” post to their page.

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Jahlil Rush
Jahlil Rush, Production Assistant
Jahlil Rush is a Production Assistant for The Ticker.
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