Recently, The Daily Campus reported on an incident that occurred in early February, where turbahs — small pieces of molded clay many Shia Muslims use during prayer — that had been donated for students to use at the Islamic Center of the University of Connecticut and the wellness and meditation space in Homer Babbidge Library had been vandalized and thrown out.
This is not the first anti-Shia incident to occur at UConn; according to members of the Ahlul Bayt Student Association, an organization for Shia Muslims at UConn, anti-Shia rhetoric has occurred for years. ABSA claims that ICUC has not been a welcoming environment for Shia Muslim students, with ICUC keeping anti-Shia books inside the mosque, and requiring approval for the placement of worshipping items such as turbahs in the space of worship.
In response to the incident, the Muslim Student Association released a statement condemning the vandalism, claiming that the ICUC executive board had no connection to the attackers. The MSA claimed the e-Board lacked any knowledge that turbahs would be placed in the mosque and reiterated that the placement of any religious items in the mosque requires ICUC approval. While MSA claims ICUC apologized to ABSA for the incident and offered to pay for turbahs and discuss concerns, ABSA claims they could not schedule a meeting and that an apology from ICUC was neither direct nor official.
Shia Mulim students at UConn must be supported better. Anti-Shia incidents and rhetoric should be properly condemned, ABSA should receive new turbahs and ICUC should cooperate in identifying and holding accountable the vandal(s) and ensuring the turbahs are replaced. However, even after all this occurs, more work is necessary to create an inclusive campus that is materially supportive of every faith and its worship.
As suggested by ABSA in the article, given the anti-Shia Muslim hate and the divide between Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims, more events and educational opportunities should be made available to students to eliminate misconceptions regarding the Shia sect.
Furthermore, this incident occurred on Feb. 8 and the UConn administration has yet to publicly condemn and oppose this hate. The UConn administration should address this incident, make it clear that such hate is unwelcome at the university and spare no resources investigating those responsible. This is yet another instance where students of a certain religion — in this case a certain sect of a religion — were targeted, making it clear that UConn still must work to become an inclusive, safe campus for everyone.