Muslim students at the Tandon School of Engineering found the outside of their prayer room vandalized on Wednesday, with one word scrawled in erasable marker across the door: “Trump!”
A report was filed with NYU Public Safety. The New York Police Department is investigating the vandalism and categorized it as criminal mischief — not a hate crime.
The vandalism came the day after Donald Trump, whose presidential campaign platform routinely pushed inflammatory language regarding Muslims in America, was elected commander-in-chief. Tandon Director of Marketing & Communications Kathleen Hamilton said that as of now very little is known about the crime.
“We don’t even honestly know if it was a student,” Hamilton said. “We’ll just have to wait and see what the police say.”
The prayer room is located at 6 MetroTech Center, and only people with an NYU ID can access the building. LS junior and Muslim Students Association treasurer RJ Khalaf said that he was emotional when he saw the vandalization.
“I received a picture of it at about 9 a.m. as I was about to walk out the door of my apartment,” Khalaf said. “After seeing the vandalization of the prayer room, I was frustrated, I was sad and most of all angry.”
Khalaf also said he was particularly uncomfortable with the fact that the vandalization location was a prayer room.
“This prayer space is a sanctuary to the Muslim community,” Khalaf said. “It is a place where they can come and feel at home, safe and loved. The sanctity of such a community was threatened.”
To show the Tandon students that they did not face this alone, Khalaf said that a group of students from the Washington Square campus visited Brooklyn to offer condolences and show support. After that, they hosted a community healing session where people could discuss some of their feelings. Over 100 people attended.
The incident at Tandon is not an isolated one, as more reports come in across the country of Trump supporters instigating in the name of their candidate.
CAS freshman Iffat Nur also felt shocked with this. Although he is not a very religious Muslim, he thinks that these discriminatory actions normalize hate.
“My parents live out here in New York City, and I have a great deal of Muslim co-workers who live in Queens, and I can say that we are tense to say the least,” Nur said. “[Tuesday’s] results awakened a very ugly beast, and we’re about to see very dire consequences.”
He said that Trump’s victory brought awareness to the fact that discrimination is not only mainstream but, more importantly, a winning tactic.
However, President Andrew Hamilton and Tandon Dean Katepalli Sreenivasan emphasized that there is no place for conduct like this at NYU. They sent separate emails to students, with Sreenivasan denouncing hateful actions within Tandon. In response to the vandalism, the Muslim Students Association held a rally against hatred in Kimmel on Thursday evening.
Islamic Center imam Khalid Latif and CAS Dean Gabrielle Starr both talked at the rally. The event was meant to allay the fear and hate festering on campus. Khalaf, meanwhile, emphasized that people should not despair — just the opposite, in fact.
“We have definitely seen the Muslim community come closer together in the past 24 hours,” Khalaf said. “While our community was already quite strong and tight-knit, the election results and the vandalism really brought the community even closer together.”
Email Sayer Devlin at [email protected]