When an incident of vandalism or hate graffiti takes place, most would write it off as an isolated incident – an act of foolishness. But when these incidents are taking place on college campuses across the U.S. – half a dozen in a week’s time, that’s cause for concern. So what’s going on here? Are these still isolated incidents? Or is campus Islamophobia on the verge of raging out of control? Take a look at these 6 incidents, and judge for yourself:
Idaho State University
On Monday, April 4th, anti-Muslim DVD’s were placed underneath the windshield wipers of vehicles at an Idaho State University parking lot. The copies of the DVD’s in white sleeves had a handwritten title: “Idaho Muslims & Tommy Robinson.” Robinson, is of course the well-known UK hate group leader, responsible for stoking anti-Muslim hatred through the English Defence League and PEGIDA-UK.
According to local news outlet KVPI, the DVD’s contained hateful rhetoric, describing all Muslims as terrorists, and describing the Qur’an as a “terrorist manual.” At least 20 of the videos were confiscated by the ISU Police, and the incident is under investigation.
University of Michigan
On March 30th, students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor found chalkings with the words “#Stop Islam” and “Trump 2016” scrawled largely in a common area at the school. Even though the message was offensive to many students, the school refused to remove the chalkings, citing “free speech.”
University of California-Riverside
The Department of Ethnic Studies at UC-Riverside reported news of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim vandalism during spring break. A Palestinian flag which was hanging in the department was torn down, along with mailboxes being rummaged through, and pictures of female students defaced. According to a professor in the department, Dylan Rodriguez, the crime was motivated by “anti-Muslim/Islamophobic sentiment.”
University of Massachusetts
On Monday, graffiti with the words “Stop Islam” was found outside the Fine Arts Building at UMass. This was just the latest in a string of incidents involving race and religion at the university. Earlier this year, a swastika was found at a campus restroom, and racist fliers were sent to printers and fax machines on campus. The university held a diversity forum this past week to discuss this rash of issues.
University of Kansas
Twitter user @therealshegufta – who is the former vice vresident of the University Senate, at the University of Kansas pointed out an anti-Muslim chalking that appeared on campus Monday:
The message reads: “Choose One – Pro-Islam <> Pro-Women & Gay Rights.”
If the bigotry of Trump supporters at KU wasn't obvious enough last week, here's their blatant Islamophobia today: pic.twitter.com/UZmpOzin4x
— Shegufta (@therealshegufta) April 4, 2016
This comes on the heels of pro-Trump chalkings appearing across campus.
Arizona State University
Last week, the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) at ASU held their annual “Islam Awareness Week” – an event that helps promote understanding and engagement on campus. The MSA spent nearly $650 in producing materials and signs to promote the events of the week, but found that these signs were repeatedly being torn down and thrown in the trash. While the student group is downplaying the incidents, they do think that the signs being torn down were a reflection of anti-Muslim animus.
Bonus – Because Hate’s Not Just Reserved For Campuses, But Legislatures Too!
A Tennessee lawmaker was caught distributing an anti-Islam DVD to her colleagues in the state legislature. Rep. Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet) distributed the hate DVD “America’s Mosques Exposed – Video Evidence They Are War Factories” to her colleagues, which has alarmed many. A complaint against Lynn was filed by three fellow legislators (all Democrats) for “reckless and careless disregard for those of the Muslim faith.”
Cause for Concern?
At first glance, most of these incidents seem relatively innocuous. But is this signaling part of a larger trend? With at least six examples in the past week alone, the answer would point to yes.
For Muslim students especially, this must be of great concern. Examine for a moment, the recent study done by CAIR-California – where statistics indicate that over half of Muslim students under the age of 18 have experienced some sort of religious-based bullying. In fact, Muslim students are twice as likely to be the target of bullying than other students, according to studies. Now imagine finally progressing beyond the confines of a grade-school environment, only to see this trend continue on a university level.
This should also raise questions as to where this is all stemming from. Is this a product of “Trumpism” – the heightened divisive rhetoric from the election, permeating the campus environment? Are students feeling more emboldened to openly express their bigotry, when they know it is likely to go unpunished? Does this tie into the heightened rhetoric surrounding the anti-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement on many campuses throughout the U.S.? As we are well aware, the discussion surrounding this topic often implements anti-Arab and anti-Muslim tropes in order to advance the cause forward.
Whatever the reason, it is impossible to ignore this recent wave of incidents, without juxtaposing them against the growing list of Islamophobic incidents in the past few months. These violent incidents provide a backdrop of why the campus incidents are so disturbing to Muslim college students – as amped up rhetoric often results in amped up violence, against Muslims and those who are perceived to be Muslim.