City Hall passes resolution condemning hate speech, violence toward Muslims

Lisa Dreher

Noor Wadi left the Texas Tribune Festival agitated after what she said was a one-sided National Security panel, which urged suspicion and caution of Muslims. 

Wadi, a UT law student, stood at the 24th Street and Guadalupe Street bus stop frustrated. Out of the corner of her eye, a man glared at her from a moving bus. The bus approached the station, and what followed has kept her wary of that area ever since.

“He sticks his head out of the bus right before the bus is about to move and screams, ‘They say it’s a great day when you don’t wake up with chalk lines,” Wadi said.

Last Thursday, the Austin City Council passed a resolution openly condemning such hate speech and violence toward Muslims, immigrants and people of color. Council member Gregorio Casar drafted the document as part of a nationwide move by elected officials to politically and socially support these groups.

“I’m proud that we’ll continue to commit ourselves to Austin’s values of protecting people’s inalienable right to feel safe and a part of this community,” Casar said during the City Council meeting.

More than 500 elected officials signed an open letter this year, created by the municipal policy advisory board Local Progress, voicing “outrage” for prejudiced rhetoric against Muslims, especially by
political figures.

Council members Delia Garza, Sabino Renteria and Ora Houston supported Casar’s resolution which was inspired by the
open letter. 

“I have lived through segregated times here in Austin,” Houston said. “I know how much emotion and rhetoric can taint how we relate to each other as human beings.”

There were two incidents of racially charged attacks last year near campus: An unidentified UT student wearing a Muslim Student Association shirt was spat on walking along Guadalupe Street, and two Muslim women were verbally harassed at Kerbey Lane.

Shaykh Mohamed-Umer Esmail, the Imam of Nueces Mosque near campus on Nueces Street, said the UT students he sees are usually safe, but recently, a twenty-something ex-marine frequented the mosque for spiritual guidance and became enraged when not given immediate attention.

“He [was] extremely disturbed to the extent that I [felt] sorry for him,”  Mohamed-Umer Esmail said. “What scares us is that he is an ex-marine, and being an ex-marine, he can be capable of doing a lot of things.”

Austin Police Department is still investigating the threats to the Nueces Mosque.

UTPD and the Campus Climate Response Team said there have not been many recent hate crimes on campus reported to them. The Campus Climate’s 2014-2015 trend report concluded “bias related to race/ethnicity is the most common type of bias,” according to data from the three academic years from 2012 to 2015.

Wadi and mechanical engineering senior Adil Moosani said — like the two women at Kerbey Lane — female Muslims are subjected to more derogatory attention because of their traditional clothing.

“As a guy, it’s much easier to assimilate than a girl who wears a hijab,” Moosani said. “I guess I’ve been lucky enough not to have had anything recently.”

Around the anniversary of 9/11 and with the upcoming presidential election, Wadi said she is more guarded. Wadi also said she wished the University invited more Muslim speakers to balance out the dialogue on national security on campus, such as at the Tribune Festival.

“I know that the individuals care, but [the University] seems to be profiting off of the kind of rhetoric that trickles down to people who want to harass,” Wadi said.