University in tizzy over distribution of 'anti-Muslim DVDs'

From the Idaho State Journal

By Kendra Evensen

Idaho State University officials say there is an active investigation into an incident involving one or more individuals who distributed DVDs containing anti-Muslim propaganda on campus Monday.

The DVDs were placed on car windshields near the Rendezvous Complex and around housing areas sometime between late afternoon and evening, but ISU public safety officers rounded up many of the DVDs after students alerted them of the incident, said Stuart Summers, associate vice president of marketing and communications for ISU.

“Yesterday’s distribution of anti-Muslim propaganda saddens us as a university,” Summers said Tuesday, adding that ISU welcomes students from all over the world and values a diverse education. “We do not condone the actions (of the individuals) responsible. We take a strong stance against intolerance of any form.”

Local Muslims worship at Pocatello's Mosque in 2015.

Local Muslims worship at Pocatello's Mosque in 2015.

Summers said ISU public safety officers are investigating the incident and they have a strong lead. As of Tuesday night, all indications were that the DVDs were not distributed by anyone within the university community, ISU officials said.

Summers said ISU has also alerted the Federal Bureau of Investigation about the incident since hate messages were involved.

“Anytime students are potentially targeted, we do everything we can to ensure student safety,” he said.

Although ISU respects people’s right to free speech, Stuart said the university also needs to do everything it can to ensure that students’ safety and ability to get an education is not impeded.

ISU political science professor Daniel Hummel, who's also secretary of the Islamic Society of Southeastern Idaho, is concerned about the DVDs that were distributed.

Hummel, who has been studying Islamophobia since 2008, says hate speech can be linked to hate crimes, and he worries that such incidents could lead to attacks against local Muslims.

“I worry all the time with the current environment and how people feel about Muslims in this country,” he said.

Hummel noted that he didn’t really believe that Muslim Americans face persecution until he became a follower of the faith and experienced it firsthand in the various places he has lived. As a white male, he doesn’t run into too many issues when he’s out by himself, but people have said terrible things when he’s out with his wife, who wears a scarf, he said.

“They’ve called me a terrorist to my face,” Hummel stated.

Hummel hopes the Pocatello community will take a strong stance against the anti-Muslim propaganda, like it did when Pocatello's Too Great for Hate group was formed in response to white supremacy flyers and CDs being distributed in Idaho Falls and Pocatello in 2010.

ISU did post a statement on Facebook on Tuesday to let the community know that the university did not condone the actions of those responsible for distributing the anti-Muslim propaganda, and many people posted messages of support.

Summers was proud to read those comments.

“The silver lining in all of this is the outpouring of support and the outpouring of respect for our international students and students of differing backgrounds,” he said.

Summers noted that ISU is organizing a public forum in the future to address diversity on campus, and it plans to involve students, faculty, staff and community members in the process.

Hummel hopes people will also take the time to get to know their Muslim American neighbors, rather than judging everyone based on what they see on TV or hear about those living in the midst of civil wars, which can bring out the worst in anyone. He said people are always welcome to visit Pocatello's mosque to learn more.

“(Get to know your) Muslim American neighbor. You might be really surprised,” Hummel said, adding that they’re not the scary group some people make them out to be.


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