MPAC Unveils Bureau of Academic Freedom to Protect Students’ Rights and Pursuit of Justice

June 6, 2024 Press Release

Washington, DC –-  Today, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) proudly announces the launch of the Bureau of Academic Freedom. This initiative seeks to fortify the fundamental rights of American Muslim youth, empowering them as the vital voices of tomorrow. As the scrutiny of students who peacefully protested intensifies, it is crucial to take action to safeguard our freedoms. We must address the violations of the First Amendment that are proliferating in the heart of our nation and beyond.

MPAC President Salam Al-Marayati joined Breaking Points with Krystal and Saagar to talk about the launch of our new Bureau of Academic Freedom to protect students’ rights and the pursuit of justice. Watch now.

Since its inception in 1988, MPAC has worked to improve the perceptions and policies that impact American Muslims by engaging the government, media, and communities. However, meetings with government officials have often fallen short in the last few months when it comes to true representation of American Muslims, with elected officials being politically paralyzed from the millions of dollars poured into counter-campaigns by Pro-Israel super PACs. 

The American Muslim community is fatigued by monotonous listening sessions and empty promises, while billions of dollars in arms sales fuel the war on Gaza and McCarthyist policies target our students at home. With the launch of the Bureau, we demand real action to take the concerns of our community seriously and protect our students in their pursuit of academic freedom. 

Most recently, we experienced trepidation in discussing student challenges in meetings with various agencies, government officials, and representatives:

  • MPAC President Salam Al-Marayati met Attorney General Merrick Garland and senior officials from the Department of Justice (DOJ), including FBI Director Christopher Wray and Associate Attorney General Lisa Monaco, during a discussion coordinated by the Arab American Institute
  • MPAC met with Southern California elected officials and law enforcement agencies in our LA headquarters to demand accountability and seek answers regarding the failure of law enforcement to respond adequately to the assaults on UCLA students, including:
    • Mayor of Los Angeles, Karen Bass 
    • LAPD Chief Dominic Choi
    • LA City Attorney Hydee Feldstein Soto
    • LA Sheriff Robert Luna and senior staff

The Bureau of Academic Freedom marks a significant milestone in our ongoing efforts to support the American Muslim youth of today. By providing comprehensive training, mentorship, and resources, we aim to equip these future leaders with the tools and skills necessary to navigate the complex landscape of public service and advocate for the need for change.

In response to recent escalations and heightened incidents of discrimination and hate targeting our students, the demand for expanded resources and support services has reached a critical juncture. Recognizing the urgency of this moment, MPAC is taking decisive action to establish the Bureau. We are prepared to support students through these measures: 

  • Open Channels of Communication: Encourage students to report incidents of bullying, harassment, or doxing, and serve as facilitator and liaison to government agencies. This means fostering an environment where they feel safe and supported in coming forward with their concerns, whether in a public or anonymous reporting system.
  • Protect the Civil Liberties of Students: Provide training for educational institutions and support services to students on campus.
  • Provide Support Services: Ensure that counseling services are readily available for affected students and provide the resources and information on available support networks
  • Review and Strengthen Policies: Revisit and, if necessary, strengthen existing anti-bullying and harassment policies with universities to include specific provisions addressing the unique challenges faced by Muslim and/or Arab students.
  • Expand the Development of the Next Generation of Leaders in Public Service:  Foster engagement in government service and provide a sustainable pipeline for young American Muslims to careers on the Hill, in Federal agencies, and at firms, think tanks, and other organizations that work on issues affecting American Muslims. 

Our goal is to meet the needs of the American Muslim youth who are met with the difficulties of navigating the intricate landscape of transitioning into the professional world while empowering them to exercise their inherent freedoms.

In recent months, we have been inspired as students and faculty exercise their protected rights of freedom of speech and assembly. Their unwavering commitment to pursuing justice and equality for the Palestinian people has guided us in our recent work: 

  • Sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and Assistant Secretary for the Office of Civil Rights, Catherine Lhamon, resulting in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights launching a Title VI investigation into attacks on pro-Palestinian student protestors at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) by external pro-Zionist agitators
  • Salam Al-Marayati, hosted by Vanderbilt University engages in a discussion with Samar Ali, co-chair of the Vanderbilt Project on Unity and American Democracy on student protests
  • Co-authored UCLA is Complicit: Al-Talib and MPAC Joint Condemnation of Zionist Encampment Violence, a collaborative statement with UCLA students from Al-Talib News Magazine 
  • Met with students from universities nationwide, including the University of Southern California (USC), the University of Miami, the University of California at Riverside, Occidental College, George Washington University, Vanderbilt University, and the University of California-Los Angeles, who have been the target of censorship and violence, many of whom are now facing suspensions during these pivotal last days of the semester.
  • MPAC President Salam Al-Marayati joined students at USC’s Gaza Solidarity Encampment to hold a teach-in on the history of Palestine and highlight the current silencing and persecution of pro-Palestinian voices across the nation.

Every student, regardless of their religious or cultural background—be they Muslim, Jewish, Christian, or Arab—has the undeniable right to an environment where they can nourish their minds and build the necessary skills to find equal job opportunities. As George Washington Carver said, “Education is the key to unlocking the golden door of freedom.”

Our mandate is clear: to build and empower the next generation of leaders who embody the values of justice, pluralism, and civic engagement.

You can build a future free from fear and bigotry.

Invest in MPAC’s work to improve public policies and perceptions. We’re changing how America views Islam and Muslims.