Anti-Muslim fliers affiliated with the American Vanguard, a white nationalist organization, have appeared on college campuses across the United States.
Students from the University of Texas at Austin, University of Central Florida and Rutgers University tweeted photos of a flier reading "Imagine a Muslim-free America." The flier was in black and white with a silhouette of the twin towers depicted in the background. American Vanguard's Texas group has taken credit for the posters at UT-Austin.
The University of Texas at Austin released a statement on Tumblr notifying students that the fliers were removed since it was defacing the campus property.
"The university vigorously supports free speech, but posting signs of any nature on the outside of university buildings is not allowed under campus rules,” the statement read.
Sarah Khan, a senior at the University of Texas, expressed frustration at the university’s response, noting that it did not explicitly condemn the fliers nor did it offer support or resources to students who felt affected by the incident.
"UT-Austin’s message was trash," Khan said in an email. "This was a great way to tell their Muslim students that they really don’t give a shit about their safety. UT cares more about their property being destroyed than the lives of their students."
UT-Austin has not yet responded to Mic’s request for comment.
Azmia Magane, a Muslim alumna of the University of Central Florida, said she believes American Vanguard is advocating for the genocide of Muslims living in the U.S.
"These are not benign 'free speech' fliers," Magane said in an email. "This is targeted hate speech against Muslims. There's only two ways that America would ever be 'Muslim-free.' These posters are literally calling for the removal of Muslims from their homes, followed by subsequent deportation — a so-called 'peaceful' cleansing — or genocide. That is violent.”
Magane said she reached out to American Vanguard's merchandise provider. Jacob Shaffer, CEO of INeedMerch.com, responded to Magane informing her that the group is no longer his client.
"[American Vanguard] is not currently a client," Shaffer wrote to Magane. "They ran a campaign a long time ago and haven't done so again. They are not a current client and do not have any merchandise on our site for purchase."
After defending American Vanguard's right to free speech, Shaffer asked Magane to delete her tweets about the posters in question. Shaffer has not yet responded to Mic’s request for comment.
Jim Sues, the executive director of the Council of American Islamic Relations' New Jersey chapter, urges Rutgers University to take prompt action in condemning fliers and to protect the first amendment rights of its students.
"The hate and bigotry exhibited in this poster cannot be tolerated," Sues said in an email. "All Americans must be able to practice their faith and worship as they choose without fear of harassment or intimidation. The diversity of the student body at Rutgers University has long been a source of pride and inspiration, and the university administration must not allow narrow minded bigots to tarnish its reputation and intimidate its students."
A Rutgers University-New Brunswick spokesperson told Mic the fliers were removed after several students expressed distress over the fliers.
"The contents of the flyer, which was also posted elsewhere nationwide, violate the values and ideals for which Rutgers stands," the spokesman said in an email. "We strongly condemn this kind of speech and are appalled that our Muslim community was targeted in this way.”
Magane said these posters should prompt the Southern Poverty Law Center to designate the American Vanguard as a hate group before it radicalizes individuals to harm marginalized communities in the U.S.
"It was groups like this that radicalized Dylann Roof,” Magane said, noting the rhetoric — including sentiments espoused by Donald Trump — emboldens "white terrorism" and detrimental policies to Muslims and immigrant communities. "If some of America didn't see these things as a problem before, they should now. America cannot deny white supremacy and its violent extremism anymore. It's written in black and white on a poster: 'Imagine a Muslim-free America.'"
UCF did not respond to Mic’s request for comment.
Feb. 14, 2017, 2:58 p.m.: This story has been updated.
Correction: Feb. 15, 2017
A previous version of this story mischaracterized INeedMerch.com's relationship with American Vanguard. INeedMerch.com once provided American Vanguard merchandise on its website, but did not provide the fliers.