North Texas Daily

Forum addresses Muslim student harassment

Forum addresses Muslim student harassment

September 10
00:51 2015

Lisa Dreher | Staff Writer

@lisa_dreher97

University officials met with students Wednesday in Willis Library to address an uptick in harassment of Muslim students at UNT, and to discuss safety measures.

In the spring, UNT police received complaints through the dean of students from several Muslim female students, who said a man made derogatory comments toward them based on their sex and religion. No physical harm was reported.

“From the three reports that we have, we believe two are the same person. We have a picture, [but] we can’t identify that person,” dean of students Maureen McGuinness said. “The third one we found six months later after it occurred.”

McGuinness joined Student Government Association president Adam Alattry and the police, who said the complaints prompted conversation about further action to prevent future incidents.

“We are planning to campaign in the coming year to inform the UNT family of the opportunity to be supportive of [Muslims]  and the religious freedom of everyone on campus,” Alattry said.

UNT community relations officer Kevin Crawford was on hand to explain the precautions students can take and the police department’s available services.

More than 70 emergency phones are within reach, but are susceptible to technical errors. Students may directly contact a dispatcher by dialing 940-565-3000, then pressing the number one. This system eliminates the transferring of phones.

“We can’t be everywhere all the time. That’s why it starts with you,” Crawford said. “Time is of the essence. If you’re in doubt, go ahead and call us.”

But Fahad, 37, a Muslim art education doctoral candidate who spoke on the condition that his last name not be used out of concern for his family’s safety, expressed disappointment at the forum with Denton police.

Earlier this summer at the Big D Food Store at 420 S. Carroll Blvd., Fahad, said a middle-aged white man yelled obscene and derogatory comments after seeing Fahad’s wife dressed in a hijab and full veil.

After checking out, Fahad walked outside to find two men pushing the shouting man away from Fahad’s care, where his wife and four children were waiting.  The man continued to yell, prompting Fahad to call Denton police. But the dispatcher told him they were busy and to leave the area.

“I can’t believe I heard him correctly,” Fahad said. “I tried to get them to come and try to control him, and I said I was scared for my family.”

A few days later, he visited the Denton Police Department and spoke to an officer.

“He said even though they were busy, they should not have said that,” Fahad said. “I was thinking they would have to do something after I had showed them video and a picture of that guy and at least treat this problem, but they haven’t, and I haven’t heard of them since.”

Crawford responded to Fahad’s story, saying that UNT Police have “less call volume. If you were to call us we would react faster.”

Toward the end of the meeting, McGuinness expressed her satisfaction.

“This week’s 9/11. I’m glad we’ve had this this week for that purpose,” McGuinness said. “You now know, should any of you deal with anything this week or next week, we need to know about it.”

Editor’s Note: Before publication, Fahad, 37, spoke with editors about withholding his last name for his family’s safety. We confirmed his full identity before publication.

Featured Image: UNT community relations director and police officer Kevin Crawford speaks to an audience of more than 40 in Willis Library on Sept. 9 . Steven James | Staff Videographe

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