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Columbia University suspends Ilhan Omar’s daughter following pro-Palestinian protests

Friday April 19, 2024

Isra Hirsi, the daughter of Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, is arrested Thursday.Kelsea Petersen / NBC News

Minneapolis (HOL) — Isra Hirsi, the daughter of Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), found herself at the center of a controversy on Thursday when she was suspended from Columbia University's Barnard College. Her suspension, which came after her participation in a pro-Palestinian protest, has ignited a national debate on free speech and political activism in academic settings,  drawing international attention to the prestigious Ivy League institution.

The protest centred around a tent encampment set up by students on Columbia's South Lawn, aiming to draw attention to the situation in Gaza and to push the university toward divestment from companies supporting Israeli policies in the region. Hirsi, a junior at Barnard and a vocal participant in the demonstration, shared her thoughts and position via a social media post on platform X. "I'm an organizer with CU Apartheid Divest with Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine," she wrote. "In my three years at Barnard College, I have never been reprimanded or received any disciplinary warnings. I just received notice that I am one of three students suspended for standing in solidarity with Palestinians facing genocide."

The protest lasted over 30 hours and led to a standoff with university administrators, culminating in over 100 arrests and multiple suspensions after Columbia called for NYPD assistance. 

The university's decision to suspend Hirsi and other students has sparked significant backlash, considering the implications for free speech and the expression of political views on campus. The tension was amplified by the timing of the suspensions, which occurred shortly after a congressional hearing featuring Columbia President Nemat Shafik, where Rep. Ilhan Omar raised concerns about the treatment of pro-Palestinian students.

Isra Hirsi gives a thumbs up alongside her mother, Rep. Ilhan Omar, outside Barnard College where Hirsi is a student activist involved in recent campus protests. (Credit: Instagram)

Critics, including Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), have argued that the actions taken against Hirsi were "political reprisal," influenced by her mother's pointed questions at the congressional hearing. "The day after @IlhanMN questioned Columbia leadership's commitment to free academic expression, the school suspended her daughter? It's clear what is happening here," Bowman stated on social media. Isra Hirsi's mother, Rep. Ilhan Omar, has been a vocal advocate for Palestinian rights, and her involvement in the controversy has raised questions about the university's handling of the situation.

In defence of the university's actions, President Shafik cited the need to maintain campus order and adhere to established university policies. "Columbia is committed to allowing members of our community to engage in political expression within the confines of the law and university regulations," Shafik stated, expressing a commitment to campus safety and procedural fairness.

At the time of writing, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has not publicly commented on her daughter's suspension.


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