Schlissel: Anti-Islam graffiti ‘has no place’ at UM
An Arab-American advocacy group is investigating anti-Islam “hate graffiti” found this week on the University of Michigan campus, and school President Mark Schlissel forcefully criticized the vandalism Thursday.
“An anti-Islam message written in chalk on the Diag yesterday has caused members of our community to feel threatened and unwelcome,” Schlissel said in a statement the school released. “I want everyone at the University of Michigan – those hurt by yesterday’s message and others who have expressed similar concerns in association with other events – to know that I am committed to fostering an environment that is welcoming and inclusive of everyone, free from threat or intimidation.”
He concluded: “Racial, ethnic or religious discrimination have no place at the University of Michigan. Targeted attacks against groups of people are hateful and serve only to tear apart our university community.”
A group of students contacted the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee’s Michigan Regional Office on Wednesday about “racist symbols and phrases” displayed at the Ann Arbor school — including some labeled “#stopIslam,” officials said.
“We will defend against the intimidation of our students everywhere,” said Fatina Abdrabboh, ADC Michigan’s director. “We expect university officials to take proactive measures to ensure safe spaces for our community’s students in these heightened times of Islamophobia and anti-Arab sentiment.”
She said her group, which posted a photo showing one of the messages online, reached out to UM officials about the issue.
Rick Fitzgerald, a university spokesman, said police responded after someone scrawled the anti-Islam message in chalk earlier Wednesday on the campus’ main square known as the Diag.
Though school policy allows chalking on campus sidewalks, “attacks directed toward any member or group within the University of Michigan community, based on a belief or characteristic, are inconsistent with our values of respect, civility and equality,” Fitzgerald said. “We all understand that where speech is free it will sometimes wound. But our message is this: We are fully committed to fostering an environment that is welcoming and inclusive of everyone.”
Officials with the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Michigan chapter say the incident, which allegedly also included messages such as “Trump 2016” and “Build the Wall,” suggests a troubling trend.
“We are concerned that these recent anti-Islam and anti-immigrant messages are creating an environment in which some students, teachers and other university faculty members feel unsafe on campus,” said CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid. “We encourage anyone who has information about these messages to immediately contact the university’s Department of Public Safety.”