Racism on the web

ASUS president apologizes for Facebook comment

ASUS President Jacob Mantle, ArtSci ’10, has issued an apology regarding a comment he made on a friend’s Facebook wall.

The picture Mantle commented on showed two girls wearing headscarves.

The comment, “I like your Taliban picture,” was removed last week, he said.

“It was an inappropriate joke which was off-colour,” he said. “It was a disrespectful comment.”

Mantle said he was contacted by AMS President Talia Radcliffe who notified him of the offensive nature of the comment.

“I received an e-mail from Talia saying there was an urgent issue that needed immediate action. [AMS executive] informed me of the comment,” he said. “They asked from student leader to student leader if I’d apologize.”

At first Mantle was hesitant to issue a public apology, he said.

“I was always ready to apologize to people that I offended directly, but I didn’t understand it goes beyond that. At first I was reluctant to give an apology. The line to what is private and public is blurred.”

Mantle said he spoke to the Human Rights Office about the incident.

“It was never an issue that what I said was wrong,” he said. “My action to a friend impacted a larger group of people more than just the two of us. After coming to that conclusion, I decided to issue an apology.”

Mantle said his comment was contrary to the goals of ASUS.

“We are the largest society. We are the most diverse society. This action was divisive.”

As well as issuing an apology, Mantle taking proactive steps to deal with the incident.

“I am going to take my own personal actions. I don’t want it to be just an apology,” he said. “The Office of the Dean of Student Affairs is having a workshop November 8 organized by the National Coalition Building Institute Canada. They hold workshops for issues of diversity, inclusivity, cross cultural relations and social justice on campus.”

In his apology, posted on the ASUS website, Mantle said he used “poor judgment” in the Facebook comment he posted online.

“This message does not in any way reflect my beliefs, nor those of the society that I represent,” he said. “I would like to formally apologize to those who may have been offended by my comment and reassure the student body that I value the ideals of diversity and inclusivity that ASUS upholds.”

The comment was made around the same time as a second attempted break-in at the Queen’s University Muslim Students’ Association (QUMSA) prayer space.

The attempted break-in occurred between the hours of 8 p.m. Oct. 24 and 1 p.m. of Oct. 25. QUMSA’s club space, room 232 in the JDUC, was successfully broken into on Sept. 24 of this year.

QUMSA External Liasion Safiah Chowdhury, ArtSci ’11, said a door was damaged during the attempted break-in.

“Someone tried to break-in with a metal saw. They couldn’t get in because after the last break-in, metal shields were put in place [behind the doors].”

Chowdhury said she wants Campus Security to issue an alert because they didn’t after the Sept. 24 break-in.

“We hope Campus Security sends out an alert. We use the prayer space five times a day every day so it’s really important,” she said. “Now we have to change the whole layout of our place because the door is no longer in use.”

Sarah Shallwani, ArtSci ’09, told the Journal via e-mail the Facebook comment propels discrimination of Islamic students.

“Female students wearing hijabs on campus have been called terrorists, and I think his comment perpetuates this unjustified assumption,” she said. “I thought it was important for the Journal to cover this issue due to the large number of recent Islamaphobic incidents on campus.”

Shallwani said Mantle’s role as ASUS President means he should be especially sensitive to discrimination.

“He represents the student body, which means he represents me. I certainly would never say such an ignorant comment. In light of the recent Islamaphobic incidents, he should be attempting to discontinue false assumptions rather than perpetuate them.”

Shallwani said she thinks an apology from Mantle would be sufficient in terms of the formal consequences for his Facebook comment.

Shallwani said she was upset upon reading the comment.

“I received an e-mail with a picture of his comment on someone’s Facebook page. I felt disappointed. You would think that educated students would know better than to say something so low and hurtful,” she said. “I think there’s an underlying problem of ignorance [at Queen’s].

“Some people might think it’s just one comment? What’s the big deal? It’s not just one comment though. It’s an example of the prevailing misconception people have of Muslims and shows that there is much work to be done in order for Queen’s and society as a whole to progress.”

Dan Trottier, PhD ’10, said many people use Facebook as a private space.

He said all information on Facebook is in the public domain.

“A person’s Facebook wall might be seen as more private than a group wall, but you should always treat all these places as public,” he said. “Usually ‘public’ defined is it being not private. The issue of privacy is very contextualized. One part of Facebook might be less public.”

Correction

The photo that ran with the article titled “Racism on the Web” was Isra Rafiq, co-chair of the Queen’s University Muslim Students Association. Safiah Chowdhury did not tell the Journal Jacob Mantle’s comments happened around the same time as the break-in at the muscalla. The Journal learned the approximate timeline of each event from Mantle and Chowdhury, respectively.

Incorrect information appeared in the Oct. 28 edition of the Journal.

The Journal regrets the errors.

Editor's Note

The photo that originally accompanied this article has been removed to protect the safety of those involved.

Editor's Note

The original photo that appeared on the website was not, as the cutline said, Safiah Chowdhury. The photo has been changed to accurately reflect the cutline.

A full correction will appear in Friday's paper.

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