About 300 students and faculty gathered Monday night in the Diag for a group Isha prayers, or the fifth and final daily Islamic prayer, held by the University of Michigan Muslim Students’ Association following threats against Muslim women on campus this week.
On Friday night, a female student wearing a hijab was approached by a man who threatened to light her on fire if she did not remove her head covering. Another female student was approached by two men who referenced her religion, yelled at her for being in the United States and pushed her down a hill on Saturday night. Both crimes have been classified as intimidation crimes, with the latter classified as ethnic intimidation.
Also on Friday, a student found a swastika and hateful message written on the door of his apartment.
MSA President Farhan Ali, an LSA junior, said he was surprised by the large number of people who attended. He noted that to show solidarity with the female Muslim students on campus, male Muslims have been wearing the kufi, a traditional hat for Muslim men.
“People have these myths about Islam, and that’s how Islamophobia occurs,” Ali said. “We’re trying to figure out ways we can see to make this campus safer and we’re trying to talk to DPSS.”
University President Mark Schlissel and other administrators sent out an email Sunday night condemning incidents of intimidation and calling for unity on campus across political ideologies.
“We hope all members of our community can agree that we must not stand silent while facing expressions of bigotry, discrimination or hate that have become part of our national political discourse,” Schlissel wrote in the email.
The incidents follow the election of Donald Trump to the presidency on Nov. 8, who proposed a ban on all Muslim immigration during the campaign.
Organizers said Monday night’s gathering — which was open to Muslims and non-Muslim allies of the organization — aimed to give voice to those in fear following the election, as well as to initiate unity among all students on campus.
Public Policy junior Stephen Wallace said he attended the event with other Black students to show solidarity with Muslims. Wallace said he would like to see further action from the University administration on alt-right posters which have been posted around campus intermittently since earlier this fall, targeting Muslim, Black, LGBTQ and female students. Posters promoting white supremacy and calling for students to report undocumented immigrants were found on campus early Monday morning, alongside phrases such as “Make America Great Again.”
“We’re here for (Muslims) as a fellow minority, another marginalized group of people,” Wallace said. “I hope that President Schlissel does address the hateful flyers that have been posted up. I think that more needs to be done to investigate who is posting these flyers, because people have been posting these going back to September … and it seems like nothing is being done to stop them.”
Over the past week, many in the University community have responded to the election by hosting and attending vigils and protests. A unity march with hundreds of Ann Arbor families also occurred Sunday afternoon, aiming to promote peace and support for all communities.
LSA sophomore Rami Ebrahim, social justice and activism chair for MSA who helped organize the prayer gathering, said he hopes to see further action from the administration aside from crime reports and emails, such as specific safety initiatives.
“There’s a tense climate on campus, especially for Muslim students, and especially for more identifiable Muslim students — especially the women,” Ebrahim said. “We wanted to show that … some of the things happening on campus are not representative of the student body or are representative of all of the country in general.”
LSA junior Yara Gayar, another attendee at the event, took a slightly different position, saying she was happy with the diverse turnout of students and members of the community at Monday’s event, and with administrative response following the election.
“I like that professors are addressing the students’ safety and respect of differences,” Gayar said.
Much like Ali, LSA junior Hina Jaffer stressed the significance of the event in building new alliances.
“The silver lining to this whole thing is that, all of these marginalized communities have come together and built all these alliances that otherwise weren’t really strong, weren’t really there,” Jaffer said.