Wafaa Bilal

Dear Shirley Jackson–

I can only imagine the confluence of factors that led you and RPI to shut “Virtual Jihadi,” Wafaa Bilal’s provocative art exhibit there. I ask you to reconsider that decision and to do whatever you can to reopen the exhibit and make it plain for all to hear why you think it’s a vital addition to the conversation in America today concerning our military operations in Iraq and our future relationship with the Iraqi people.

Just this week, Democratic candidate for president Barack Obama is having to beat back accusations that he is Muslim, more evidence that the taint of association with anything Islamic or Middle Eastern has reached some new lowest level of scorn and suspiciousness in our country.

Iraqi-American Wafaa Bilal’s work, I think you know, directly and powerfully addresses this cultural bias, which is being fanned all around, in Washington, in Hollywood, on the news and on the internet. This is the American ideal turned on its head, our stormy “melting pot” culture’s history of ignorance embraced rather than its history of tolerance and acceptance and celebration of difference.

I know where thinking people stand on these issues. I hope you will join us by doing everything in your power to reopen Mr Bilal’s exhibit and to help explain why reopening it matters.

Thank you.
John Tomasic

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