The first week of a new term is simultaneously exciting and stressful for many students, but for members of the Muslim community at Lane Community College and the University of Oregon, the first week of spring term saw the specter of threatened violence jump into the light.
On April 2, the Eugene Islamic Center announced that the FBI had contacted them regarding a “potential risk” stemming from the appearance of “Punish a Muslim Day” fliers around the United States and United Kingdom. In response, the Muslim Student Union at the University of Oregon organized a peaceful counterprotest in front of the Erb Memorial Union. Students, faculty and community members – including non-Muslims – joined together in solidarity with Muslims around the world.
Security was increased at both the University and at LCC. University police and a detachment from Homeland Security were patrolling the area around the EMU, where the MSU stood in solidarity. Lane Public Safety officers roamed through buildings in pairs, and a Eugene police cruiser was spotted circling the campus in the early afternoon.
“LCC Public Safety was told about the rumor and investigated thoroughly and found nothing, nor have there been any incidents,” Joan Aschim, LCC Public Information Officer, said. “We take safety very seriously at Lane.”
On the morning of April 3, Associated Students of Lane Community College President Wilgen S. Brown released a statement in support of the Muslim community on campus.
“We must unite to defend each other, we must defend the right to live and thrive without fear of retaliation simply for your religion, ethnicity, race, culture, or way of living,” Brown said in the statement.
The idea for “Punish a Muslim Day” – which first surfaced several years ago as refugees from war-torn nations in the Middle East and North Africa began arriving in Europe in unprecedented numbers – is a call for violence against Muslim communities all over the world. A copy of a flier that circulated around social media had a list of actions to take against Muslims and a “reward system” that awards symbolic points based on escalating levels of violence.
Hana Beligho, who works in the Concepción “Connie” Mesquita Multicultural Center at LCC, didn’t feel particularly threatened by the rumors of violence.
“I don’t think it’s anything more than some joke someone posted online,” Beligho said. “My son tried to use it to get out of school today, but I told him not to worry.”
As of press time, no incidents had been reported anywhere in Eugene.