Advocates say Muslim students face harassment as conflict escalates in the Middle East

The escalating war between Israel and Hamas has led to some Muslim and Arab students being harassed and intimidated on campuses, according to the Muslim advocacy group the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Zainab Chaudry, the director of the CAIR office in Maryland, said students have filed complaints at a number of the state’s high schools and college campuses over the past couple of days.

“Sometimes this can look passive like calling students ‘terrorists,’ and sometimes it’s much more aggressive,” Chaudry said.

One of the complaints came from Johns Hopkins University, where a Palestinian woman said she was heckled.

“She said that she was walking across campus and somebody, an unknown male, went past her and said, ‘You’re getting what you deserve,'” Chaudry said. “She just felt very unsafe.”

In other instances, classroom discussions about Israel and Hamas at several Maryland high schools have led to bullying as well as harassment on social media.

“When I spoke with two of the students, one of them told me that she did not want to go to school,” Chaudry said. “Many students who we have spoken to have said that they’ll think twice before they make decisions like going out for a cup of coffee or going to the library to study.”

In a statement, CAIR called on administrators and officials within all educational institutions “to take swift measures to promote student safety and take appropriate corrective action as necessary to discourage these incidents.”

“This is just the beginning of the reports,” Chaudry said. “There are, presumably, other incidents that have not come to our attention.”

The war began after Hamas militants stormed into Israel on Saturday during a major Jewish holiday, killing and abducting people. In response, Israeli warplanes have hammered the Gaza Strip, destroying buildings and sending Palestinian residents scrambling to find safety.

The war has already claimed at least 2,200 lives on both sides.

“This attack has brought to the surface the painful memories and scars left by a millennium of antisemitism and genocide against the Jewish people,” said President Joe Biden.

Biden added, “We have to be crystal clear: There is no justification for terrorism, no excuse and the type of terrorism that was exhibited here is just beyond the pale, beyond the pale.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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