Newswire photo by Sydney Sanders | The controversial re-branding of the student section and accompanying X-shirts as “The Holy Land” has received criticism and concerns about its historic connections and implications for non-Christian students.
The X-Treme Fans faced backlash last week after they revealed the new name of the student section of the Cintas Center. The name, that students voted on, was “The Holy Land.” Additionally, shirts were released with the title “The Holy Land” and swords on the front (above), while the back brandished the phrase “Unfazed by Unbelievers” and “Unlimited in Ascendance” (below), a move that some say harkens back to the violence of the Crusades.
“I was very surprised by my initial reaction. I would expect to be insulted or angry, but I was more hurt… I was holding back tears,” Tala Ali, Muslim chaplain at the Dorothy Day Center for Faith and Justice, said. “The reason, I think, is that I associate Xavier with feeling safe and being very fortunate… I think that Xavier is the best local university for a Muslim student to be.”
Ali said that the student section’s new name insinuates an “us versus them” mentality. “It leads me to question ‘who is us, and who is them?’ Do you see me as the other? Are you unfazed by me?”
There is no information on how many levels of approval the shirts and the naming of the student section went through. X-Treme Fans was unable to comment after multiple attempts by the Newswire to make contact.
Ali explained that she consulted Muslim students who felt scared and angry. They said they felt like outsiders on campus already, and this incident perpetuated that feeling.
“It’s an ignorant act, but I didn’t feel threatened by it,” Deena Dakhiel, a senior communications major, said. “However, coming from a Jesuit university, how could you not know that was inappropriate? I understand that the majority of people who go to this school are Christian, but by having those shirts go through, it feels like a slap in the face to the Muslim and Jewish communities who are already under-acknowledged.”
Ali added that this re-branding plays into a larger cultural issue that Muslims already face.
“Especially when you put this in the context of our current political climate with increasing Islamophobia trends, that’s already in the psyche of a Muslim student. This is already something that a Muslim thinks about when we go grocery shopping,” Ali said. “We get things yelled at us from passing cars, we get funny looks, we get people who shake their head in disappointment. To have to lived that experience with that political climate outside of Xavier, and then for this to happen in our safe bubble, is something that could be distressing for a Muslim student.”
In a statement to the Newswire, Associate Athletic Director for Communications Tom Eiser stated, “After receiving negative feedback and discussing with campus leadership, the decision was made to not name the student section for the 2017-18 school year.” He went on to say, “All sales of t-shirts and other branding of that name ended.”
This controversy comes after a particularly tumultuous year with regard to racial and religious tensions on campus. In October of 2016, a white student put on blackface and made racially insensitive comments about the Black Lives Matter movement on their Snapchat story. Later that month, a skeleton decoration wearing dashiki (a traditional West African tunic) was seen hanging by what appeared to be a rope next to a Trump sign in Fenwick. Last spring semester, a residence bulletin board in Brockman Hall was vandalized with a swastika.
By: Savin Mattozzi ~Copy Editor~