The conflict between Muslim and anti-Islamic factions on campus escalated to physical violence last week, when what appears to be a series of anti-Islamic attacks took place on campus, including the assault on Tuesday of a female Muslim student at Hart House.
The student, who did not wish to be named, was followed into a washroom by a female assailant. The woman shoved a flyer into the student’s chest, pushing her back, while saying, “You need this, you’re a Muslim.” The flyer advertised a rally supporting Denmark over last month’s controversial Danish cartoon of Mohammad.
After the student threw the flyer away, the assailant asked her why she had discarded it, and began yelling at her and her friend to “go back to [their] fucking country and bomb it.”
“She just kept yelling, ‘Fucking Muslim terrorists,'” said the student, who is in her fourth year at UTM. The woman, as well as a friend who was with her, looked to be in their thirties.
The two assailants disappeared when the student and her friend ran to the porter’s desk. A joint investigation by campus police, the Office of Community Safety, and the Office of Anti-Racism is ongoing.
“We’re taking it quite seriously,” said Staff Sergeant Steve Cox yesterday. “We have a description [of the suspects].”
The attack was only the most serious in a recent string of incidents contributing to what SAC VP Equity Shaila Kibria calls the “volatile atmosphere on campus against Muslims.” On Wednesday morning, a group of Muslim women led by Kibria had eggs thrown at them by a group of people as they attempted to tell other students about Tuesday’s attack, while passing out flyers for International Women’s Day.
“When I heard what happened [to the student on Tuesday], it enraged me,” said Kibria yesterday, who explained that she had wanted to inform other students. Although the motive for the egging attack is still not clear, two of the women pelted, including Kibria, were wearing hijabs, or Islamic religious headgear.
Further upsetting students was a photocopied article that was found posted on a wall outside Sid Smith’s front doors on Thursday. It contained one of the infamous Danish cartoons as well as the statement that it is “an accurate view of the religion of Islam,” along with a scrawled-on phone number and the name “Ted.”
A website, whose address was printed on the article, contained instructions to university students on how to print out the flyer and distribute it on campus. When reached at the number provided, Ted, who would not give his full name, said he was not affiliated with the website, but thought its message was “really super positive.” He said he had posted a thousand flyers on U of T’s and York’s campuses. The flyers were different than the one that was shoved into the Muslim student’s hands on Tuesday.
Kibria is angry that administrators have not done enough, in her estimation, to send a message that Islamophobia on campus is not acceptable.
“What is the university doing? Every time I talk to the Dean’s Office or [other administrators], they send me a copy of their official policy protecting freedom of expression. Like they’re saying, ‘Oh, shut up, shut up.'” Kibria says administrators did not respond adequately to The Strand cartoon, nor have they helped with other concerns.
“This has to be addressed by administration,” said the victim of Tuesday’s attack. “I just don’t understand. There’s this fear of Muslims and I’m not sure why.”