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A Muslim valedictorian student is in shock after the University of Southern California (USC) revoked her commencement speech due to apparent safety concerns.

In an online statement, Asna Tabassum expressed her disappointment at USC’s April 15 decision to cancel her speech at graduation. The first-generation South Asian-American Muslim is expected to take the podium on May 10.

“I am both shocked by this decision and profoundly disappointed that the University is succumbing to a campaign of hate meant to silence my voice,” Tabassum said via the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Los Angeles.

On Monday, SC Provost Andrew Guzman shared a campus-wide update less than a month away from the upcoming 136th commencement. The chief academic officer revealed that the “selection of our valedictorian has taken on an alarming tenor” over the past several days.

“After careful consideration, we have decided that our student valedictorian will not deliver a speech at commencement. While this is disappointing, tradition must give way to safety,” Guzman wrote.

The letter continued: “The intensity of feelings, fueled by both social media and the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, has grown to include many voices outside of USC and has escalated to the point of creating substantial risks relating to security and disruption at commencement.”

However, Tabassum has her own theory behind USC’s move. The valedictorian claimed “serious doubts” about safety and brought attention to her commitment to human rights. In fact, she posted a link to her Instagram profile, which highlighted “what’s happening in Palestine and how to help.”

The soon-to-be college graduate suggested that “the hate and the vitriol that was unleashed towards me after” was part of the reason why USC “caved in.”

“I am not surprised by those who attempt to propagate hatred. I am surprised that my own university – my home for four years – has abandoned me,” Tabassum continued, hoping that USC would reverse the decision.

The Israel-Hamas war has affected freedom of speech at college campuses across the nation. 

MadameNoire previously reported on an incident when a Black NYU Law student and former Student Bar Association president were deemed unfit after they blamed Israel for Hamas’ attacks in a written letter. The student body voted with no confidence against them.

The Israel-Hamas War began on Oct. 7, 2023, when Palestinian militant group Hamas launched an unprecedented assault on Israel. The same day, the leader of Hamas’ military, Mohammed Deif, introduced their mission, dubbing it “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood.”

Since then, movements across the nation have protested against the violent war.

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