Henry Ford College student says prof launched 'Islamophobic rant'

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Farmington Hills — A Henry Ford Community College student said Tuesday one of his professors allegedly berated him in front of other students recently in an "Islamophobic rant."

Ali Jaber, 26, of Dearborn Heights said an Introduction to Business professor at the college verbally attacked him in a classroom when Jaber inquired about help in a Facebook website promoting Lebanon. Business Administration professor Michael Thomas questioned his loyalty as an American and implied he had been radicalized because he is Muslim, the student said.

"He was always one of my favorites," said Jaber, an honor roll student. "But when I asked him for some advice on non-profit work for the less fortunate or partnering on the site, he suddenly changed. He said 'I bet you can't fly or leave the U.S. and are on a watch list.'

"I was born in this country and love it, but I also love Lebanon," he said. "There was nothing political about the site.

"His parting shot was that he worked with law enforcement and would keep an eye on me ... that something was not right about me," Jaber said. "I felt threatened."

Jaber said he later tried to follow up with the instructor by email but was told "my email was too long and I needed to be able to handle the tough questions American was posing about people like me."

Because of the allegations, the Michigan branch of the Council on Islamic Relations said Tuesday it has filed a harassment and racial discrimination complaint against the school and instructor Michael Thomas with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.

Thomas could not be immediately reached Tuesday for comment.

The community college takes "all allegations seriously," said Henry Ford spokeswoman Rhonda DeLong,.

Ali Jaber of Dearborn Heights talks during a press conference at the CAIR-MI office in Farmington Hills about the Islamophobic abuse he claims he was subjected to by his professor during class at Henry Ford Community College.

CAIR Executive Director Dawud Walid and staff attorney Amy V. Doukoure, said Jaber filed a complaint with the school after the Oct. 31 incident but "nothing has been done about it."

"They offered him (Jaber) a transfer to another business class," Doukoure said. "The instructor is still working on campus with other students."

No action has been taken because the college is "following our due-process procedures, which include a full investigation of the alleged incident," DeLong said in an email. "When the investigation is complete, we will take any actions that are necessary and appropriate in accordance with the college's policies and mission, as well as state and federal law."

The college is committed to equal educational opportunities for students regardless of religion, race, age and other characteristics, she said. 

"In accordance with state and federal law, local ordinances and our own core values, the college prohibits and will not tolerate any form of discrimination," DeLong said. 

Attorney Amy V. Doukoure,who represents Ali Jaber in a complaint against a Henry Ford Community College professor accused of  Islamophobic hate speech addresses news media during a press conference at the CAIR-MI office in Farmington Hills Tuesday.

CAIR officials also stressed that there are a high number of Muslim students at Henry Ford Community College, which is also "in the heart of Islamic community in America."

Jaber, who was carrying a 3.7 grade point average in 18 months at school, said his studies have suffered and he can't concentrate or feel comfortable at school. He alleges a doctor has told him he is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Doukoure argued that the instructor should not be permitted to teach at the school, and other instructors and staff need to go through some kind of sensitivity training.

"At minimum, he (Jaber) deserves an apology," she said.


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