Muslim students report burglaries and hate literature at Idaho State

From the New York Times

By Stephanie Saul

Federal officials and the local police are investigating burglaries and hate literature that appear to be directed at Muslim students attending Idaho State University in Pocatello, where tensions have recently risen over an influx of students from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

In an email to Idaho State faculty and students Wednesday, the university’s president, Arthur C. Vailas, said the homes of about 50 Middle Eastern students had been burglarized over the past several weeks. “As a result of these crimes, some of our students are seriously considering leaving I.S.U. and Pocatello,” the email said.

The burglaries follow reports that 17 vehicles, many belonging to Middle Eastern students, were vandalized last year, Mr. Vailas’s email said. More recently, DVDs containing hate messages were left on a number of car windshields on campus.

The Pocatello police chief, Scott Marchand, said that his office was investigating the burglaries but had received reports of about two dozen, not 50. He also said there had been about 70 residential burglaries in town since Jan. 1.

Wendy J. Olson, the United States attorney for Idaho, said the Justice Department was conducting a review of the hate literature found on campus. “We’re looking at this to determine whether there is a potential federal criminal civil rights violation,” Ms. Olson said. She was meeting with foreign students at Idaho State on Thursday to discuss hate crimes, but said the meeting had been previously arranged.

The Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission in Washington, which administers government college scholarships for Saudi students, told the students they could leave Idaho State before the end of the semester, then transfer to another university in the fall.

Five of the burglaries occurred last Friday while students were attending prayers at the local mosque, said Nezar Alnejidi, a Saudi student.

“It’s very scary,” Mr. Alnejidi said.

He expressed concern that the burglars had somehow obtained the addresses of Muslim students, because their apartments were the only ones targeted in large complexes.

Patricia Terrell, the university’s vice president for student affairs, said there had been an outpouring of community support for the students. “These break-ins are, let’s face it, done by thugs, and they don’t represent the majority of people in this town,” she said.

About 1,200 Middle Eastern students, nearly 10 percent of the student body, have been admitted here as the university tries to address declining enrollment. The Idaho State Journal reported this week that Mayor Brian Blad, who was meeting with students to try to persuade them not to leave, estimated that the students contributed $100 million or more to the local economy.

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