DETROIT — Muslim students at Wayne State University now fear for their safety after an incident on campus.
A religious group was seen on Wayne State’s campus on April 19, holding anti-Islamic signs, making Islamophobic remarks and even stomping on the Quran at one point.
A religious group threw Islam’s holy book — the Quran — on the ground and stomped on it
The Quran is the holy book for Muslims. To stomp on any holy book of any religion is seen as a significant display of blasphemy and Muslims view stomping on the Quran as a pure act of hatred.
Mahmoud Muheisan, a senior at WSU, witnessed the incident.
According to 7 Actions News, Muheisan also said the group called him and fellow Muslims “devil worshipers, ignorant and prideful.”
Muheisan informed a dean at WSU in hopes action would be taken to remove the group from the campus. However, WSU officials stated free speech prevented them from stepping in.
Below is the statement from WSU to 7 Action News:
“While the First Amendment covered last week’s actions, we find this to be deplorable, repulsive and worthy of our strongest condemnation. The group notified the university ahead of time that it was coming to speak on campus, and our police department provided a strong presence to ensure that campus remained safe for everyone.”
Another WSU student, Zaynah Jadallah, expressed her own feelings following the incident.
“This is a campus that has a wide majority of Muslims and it was the last 10 nights of Ramadan,” Jadallah said in a 7 Actions News report. “So, it offends me a lot. A regular statement could have been something they could have initially done and an open dialogue, talk to us, make sure we feel safe and we feel welcome. They say they want a diverse community, but this doesn’t allow for growth and diversity.”
Jadallah said that the university didn’t respond in the way the Muslim students wanted them to, according to the Detroit News.
“We’re all a little bit angry, a little bit disappointed in how the university reacted to it,” she said.
We of course support and protect people’s constitutional rights to free speech and assembly — freedom of speech is a core tenet of a university environment — but this kind of behavior is contemptible and unwelcome on a campus that supports the right of everyone to feel valued and included, and to express their beliefs free of such ignorant behavior.
— WSU statement
University President M. Roy Wilson sent a letter out to WSU students on April 26 regarding the Islamophobic incident. His letter addresses free speech even when the speech may cause offense or danger. He also stated that the university promotes “reasoned debate”, while also being inclusive and encouraging diversity.
“So how do we react when we run headlong into speech we find offensive or repugnant?” Wilson asked in his letter. “We can walk away. We can listen to try to understand a different viewpoint. We can disagree, passionately. We can counter with a better idea. We can work to change things — a law, a policy, a point of view. We can make our objections and views heard — loudly and, hopefully, respectfully.
“However, what we cannot do in these situations — and what is illegal — is to threaten or incite violence, punish or attempt to regulate free speech we find offensive, or engage in any behavior that seeks to cause physical harm to others,” the letter continued, noting that free speech can bear the cost of forcing people to listen to ideas that they may object to.
“I hope he understands our point of view and how we feel unsafe on campus, how we we feel that the measures that they took were not enough,” Jadallah said in a Detroit News report. “We needed (the university) to condemn their actions, to release a statement faster and to remove these kind of people from our campus and have an open dialogue with us. It should have came from them, before we asked them to do it for us.”
University officials also announced they will convene with Muslim students on May 10 to discuss their concerns as well as review their protocols.
The university also released a statement regarding the Quran being thrown to the ground and stomped on as “deplorable, repulsive and worthy of our strongest condemnation.
“We of course support and protect people’s constitutional rights to free speech and assembly — freedom of speech is a core tenet of a university environment — but this kind of behavior is contemptible and unwelcome on a campus that supports the right of everyone to feel valued and included, and to express their beliefs free of such ignorant behavior.”
Incidents like these can be considered hate crimes and in such cases where they occur on a university campus, it can leave the targeted students feeling unsafe in an environment meant for learning and expanding one’s life.
University officials also announced they will convene with Muslim students on May 10 to discuss their concerns as well as review their protocols to establish a safe and inclusive campus while also protecting the right of free speech without it producing danger for others.