The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Tuesday December 7th

Muslims, Arabs Face Harassment at N.C. State

NCSU public safety officials have been working to ensure the safety of Muslim and Arab students on the campus.

Hesham Abdel-Baky, president of N.C. State's Muslim Student Association, said he has witnessed more support for Arab students than abuse, particularly from campus administrators.

But Abdel-Baky added that there have been several racially and religiously motivated harassment incidents on campus.

"One of our covered women -- the Muslim women who wear the veil -- was spit at the day of the attack," he said.

"Another said she had small pebbles thrown at her."

Abdel-Baky said he still recommends that veiled Muslim women walk to class in pairs, even a month after the attack.

Tom Stafford, vice chancellor for student affairs at N.C. State, said several Arab students have withdrawn from the university for fear of racial or religious harassment in the wake of the terrorist attacks.

But Stafford also said N.C. State administrators have been going to extra lengths to ensure the safety of Arab and Muslim students.

"We will not tolerate discrimination based on racial or religious background," he said.

To demonstrate their stance, administrators placed the university's harassment policy in a prominent location on N.C. State's home page.

N.C. State Public Safety officials also have been working with Arab and Muslim student groups to ensure student safety.

Abdel-Baky said campus police have been diligent about providing for the needs of Muslim students.

Police have provided emergency phone numbers for students and have offered daytime class-to-class escort services.

Tom Younce, director of N.C. State Public Safety, said campus police have a zero-tolerance policy for harassment cases.

"If harassment rises to the level of criminal offense, we'll make an immediate physical arrest," Younce said.

Stafford added that students charged with violation of the harassment policy are arraigned before a Student Judicial Board.

Penalties depend on the verdict of the board.

Students found guilty of harassment might face suspension or expulsion from the university.

N.C. State Public Safety representatives, along with administrators, met with Arab and Muslim students in a combined meeting of all the university's international student organizations the day after the attack to discuss safety issues and the campus harassment policy.

Abdel-Baky said he thinks the backlash against Arabs and Muslims on campus stems mostly from media depictions of people from the Middle East as terrorists and radical extremists.

He added that many people have trouble separating the fanatics from Muslims and Arabs as a whole.

But until that perception changes, Abdel-Baky said, people will continue to harbor the same fears and suspicions.

He said, "What it comes down to is an issue of who the bad people are, who Arabs are, and what Muslims really believe in."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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