STORRS, Conn. (WTNH/AP) — As many as two hundred people gathered in front of the Wilbur Cross building on the UConn campus at noon on Monday.
One of the first people to speak to the crowd was Mahmoud Hashem who had what many are calling a hate message scrawled on his dorm room door. He had his own message for the person who did it.
“Don’t treat me like a terrorist,” Hashem told the crowd. “I don’t deserve that. Thank you so much.”
The applause he received is the kind of support which now comforts Hashem who cried after someone wrote ‘killed Paris” under his name on his door. Those two little words leading to a demonstration against discrimination and intolerance.
UConn’s president urged students to attend. Susan Herbst says the message was directed at the student because he is Muslim and there is no place for bigotry on campus.
“All of these struggles are connected,” rally organizer Anna Ziering told the gathering. “All of them require empathy and imagination for any hope of solution.”
When we first spoke with Hashem who is an engineering student from Egypt Sunday night he had a beard. Now he is clean shaven. An order from his father looking out for his safety.
“I listen to him today,” says Hashem. “Maybe he was right actually.”
“It’s terrifying that another student will feel like that they have the power and they have the right to attack someone’s identity,” says Haddiyyah Ali, a UConn student attending the rally.
During one of the speeches a student yelled out in protest and was quickly removed from the rally.
“Hey who are you?” the protestor yells. “We’re the police we’re the police,” the officer tells him. “Relax. Okay. Okay.”
We asked a few Muslim students if they feel safe on campus. We got the same answer from each of them.
“I don’t feel any more safe on campus than anywhere else,” says Ahmed Ouda. “I think campus while it shouldn’t shelter students it should definitely be a safe haven.”
Students pushing for change hope it comes in the form of education. They’d like to see tolerance taught along with the other orientation programs.
“I would love for UConn moving forward to have some sort of tolerance workshop or like program for incoming students,” says senior Khaled Hashad.