Muslim Student Association pressures leader to resign over Israel trip

A member of the Georgia State University Muslim Student Association executive board is being pressured to resign after students discovered that he would be attending a trip to Israel with Hillel, a national student organization for Jewish students.

The Muslim Student Association at GSU took to Facebook to clarify that they do not support the student and that his “current position is being questioned,” which could result in possible removal.

The student, biology major Hamza Rahman, currently serves as Head Religious Coordinator for the MSA, an undergraduate Senator for the College of Arts and Sciences at GSU, and plans to attend Israel in his capacity as a student senator with SGA.

On Thursday, GSU student Zainab Khan heard about the trip to Israel, and posted the contact information of each MSA board member on Facebook, misleading the public into believing that every member of the organization’s leadership was taking the trip. 

Khan quickly retracted these posts. Although she apologized for including the executive board’s contact information, her stance on the resignation of Rahman remains strong. 

[RELATED: UMich punishes prof who denied Israel recommendation]

“As democratically-elected representatives, these board members represent the GSU Muslim student body, regardless of what their personal choices or other affiliations may be,” Khan asserted. “As such, the board member who is still considering this trip either needs to clearly decline or resign. There can’t be any in-between. His reasons are irrelevant - there’s a conflict of interest between his priorities with SGA and MSA.”

“We ask that the board member who is affiliated with both SGA & MSA resign; that there be a stronger public statement condemning any support that was expressed by board members toward Zionism, the trip offered by Hillel, or Israel; that there be some sort of educational plan for not just the board members, but MSA members as well.”

Since Khan made his posts, Rahman has received a great deal of attention for his decision to travel to Israel, with many calling for his resignation from the MSA.

In a statement posted to Facebook, the MSA clarified its “apolitical” status and that it has “not stopped supporting Palestine,” adding that it does “not support organizations that encourage the harm of our Muslim brothers and sisters around the world.”

When addressing Rahman’s future with the MSA, the student group indicated that it was reviewing his position and that he would possibly be removed from his leadership role. It added that his removal was “only NOT yet final because he is going for his own personal reasons on behalf of SGA, and insists that it has nothing to do with MSA.”

[RELATED: College: Prof’s refusal to write Israel letter ‘disappointing’]

In defense of his decision to attend the trip, Rahman took to Facebook, writing, “as a Muslim and a strong advocate for Palestinian human rights, it is important for me to go on this trip in order to ensure that my fellow SGA members receive a nuanced perspective on Israel and Palestine.”

Rahman also addressed the Facebook posts, made by Zainab Khan, revealing his intent to attend the trip as well as his student contact information. 

“The person who made false claims about our MSA on social media last night did not bother to speak directly with me about this issue before posting her allegations, and the school email addresses of our board members, on Facebook,” Rahman said.

“If this person had taken the time to communicate with me, she would know that this was a private decision that I made and that the MSA had nothing to do with it. The remaining board members have been wrongly smeared over the last 24 hours. This is not acceptable, and those board members are owed an apology,” he added.

Finally, Rahman addressed calls for his resignation, in which he defended his integrity by stating, “I will not be resigning from my post in MSA. I serve the MSA for the sake of Allah, and I have not failed in any of my duties as Religious Director. I have given the MSA everything I have, and I will continue to do so until the end of my term, insha Allah.”

[RELATED: More than 50 NYU groups pledge to boycott Israel]

GSU did not respond to requests for comment in time for press.

“Hillel at Georgia State University was saddened by Zainab Khan’s decision to post on Facebook the names and emails of the GSU MSA,” Hillels of Georgia Executive Director Russ Shulkes told Campus Reform. “Although she has since publicly apologized, her actions consequently caused a mob-like mentality and brought much negativity upon the GSU community. Hillels around the country have proudly partnered with various cultural and religious groups on campuses. Hillel’s goal in organizing this trip is to encourage friendship and community between the Jewish students on GSU’s campus and members of the interfaith community and student leaders.”

Students Supporting Israel at GSU declined to comment.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @YoungGaGOP