An incident of possible anti-Muslim harassment was reported to the University by a Muslim student on Monday, the day after Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. Special Forces in Pakistan.
Law school student and Graduate Council representative Lubna Malik said she reported the incident to the Bias Response Team (BRT). She reported that she was the victim of a small but perhaps bigoted remark while at Ratner Athletics Center. Malik, a Muslim who wears a hijab headscarf, said another patron of the gym referred to her with the phrase “your people,” as part of a larger verbal confrontation.
University spokesman Jeremy Manier said he could not speak to whether the BRT is investigating the incident. The University does not make public whether incidents have been reported to the BRT because that might hamper its mission to provide guidance and support for students making a claim, Manier said.
The Muslim Students Association (MSA) has reached out to its members to ensure any further allegations of harassment are reported.
Malik said she was talking on her cell phone while exercising at Ratner when an older woman told her that speaking on the phone in the cardio rotunda is not allowed. Malik hung up the call, but later checked the posted rules and saw no such rule. When Malik went back to the woman asking what rule she was referring to, the woman insisted it existed, adding, “your people never follow any rules, anyway.”
Malik said that she went to the Ratner desk, where she confirmed with staff that phone calls are allowed in the rotunda, then reported the incident as a case of a patron trying to enforce a non-existent rule. After discussing the incident at the Graduate Council meeting Monday night, she reported the incident to the BRT at the urging of ORCSA Liaison to Religious Advisers Jigna Shah. (Shah did not respond to requests for comment.)
In an e-mail yesterday evening, Malik said that she has not yet heard back from the BRT or Ratner Staff about their investigations into the incident.
According to minutes from the Graduate Council meeting, Malik told other students about the alleged harassment as something others should look out for and bring up at further Council meetings, noting a rise in Islamophobic rhetoric and actions in America since 9/11. Malik also reported the incident to the Maroon.
In the last few days, some have expressed concerns that bin Laden’s death would cause a spike in an already growing American Islamophobia, evidenced in the past few months by the burning of a Quran in Florida and the banning of Sharia law by several state legislative bodies.
Malik points out that “the American Muslim community is trying to make the general American public aware that the Islamophobia problem exists,” the urge she said motivated reporting the incident to the BRT. She also noted that Muslims are just as happy as others that bin Laden is dead. “He was tarnishing Islam, and because of him thousands of Muslims were being killed in the wars in the Middle East.”
Fourth-year and MSA President Khalid Khayr said the MSA had asked members of its listhost to notify them in the event of similar incidents. He added that he had spoken with an organizer of the Sigma Phi Epsilon party on Monday who assured Khayr that the party would be free of anti-Muslim sentiment.
“We have made it clear through email, text, and Facebook that this would not be tolerated, and that any Muslim or Arab student who feels threatened should reach out to us,” Khayr said in an email.