UConn must be a more welcoming, inclusive community

Over the weekend, UConn student Mahmoud Hashem discovered that his name tag on his dorm room door had been vandalized. Someone had written the words “Killed Paris” under his name, referring to the recent terrorist attack that occurred in France on Friday. This hateful act of bigotry is reprehensible and merits unqualified condemnation from the UConn community.

UConn is supposed to be an inclusive community where all students feel like they belong and are welcome here. No student should feel uncomfortable due to harassment based on their ethnicity or religion. Yet that is precisely what has happened in this instance. Whoever wrote that hateful message drew a connection between Muslim UConn students and the actions of terrorists, making these students feel unwelcome and subject to the suspicion and even hate of other students. When asked by WTNH if he felt safe at UConn, Hashem responded, “Maybe. I don’t know.”

This is completely unacceptable. No student should feel unsafe on this campus because they are being targeted for intimidation and harassment based on their race or religion. At a demonstration on Monday, Hashem said, referring to the vandalism, “I just want to tell that guy: I’m not a terrorist. I don’t do that. I love America, I come to live in America, I love the people here, so don’t treat me like a terrorist.”

His words are simple and stirring. They demonstrate how hurtful these types of bigoted attacks are on Muslim students. These students should not have to prove their loyalty to this country in response to the ignorant and hateful racism of their peers. We should be better than that. In fact, we must be better than that.

At UConn, we are a community. As a community, it is our responsibility to provide a welcoming and inclusive environment for our fellow students. When we do not do so, we are failing in our obligations to each other. If there is anything to take away from this upsetting incident, it is that we must continue striving to live up to our professed values.

We must let students like Hashem know that they belong here, that we care for them and that we vehemently denounce any actions that make them feel otherwise. The best way for us as a community to counteract events such as this is to drown out the hurtful acts with overwhelming expressions of love and support for the students affected.