Two Muslim students from Nazareth College were attending a service as part of an assignment at Browncroft Community Church in Rochester, N.Y. earlier this month when a member of the congregation called Homeland Security.
Within the Church staff, a volunteer security officer for the Church called the college to ask if the students were indeed students because, according to the Pastor who spoke to Buzzfeed News, the students looked much older than typical college students.
President of the college, Dan Braveman, in his statement to the college community said:
“I am writing to report on an incident that greatly disturbs me. This past Sunday, two of our Muslim students visited a local church as part of the Sociology of Religion course, which requires students to attend religious services that are not of their own tradition. This was the second time the students visited the church. Our students were very well behaved and appeared to be well received at the church. Nevertheless, a church member subsequently called Homeland Security to express concern about Muslim students from Nazareth. A State Police representative contacted the College to confirm that the two individuals are in fact students. After their student status was confirmed, the police dropped the matter…
I am very troubled and indeed angered that two of our students were singled out because of their religious beliefs. We intend to discuss this matter with representatives of the church. In the meantime, I want to stress that Nazareth is committed to supporting our students, and I have met with the two students to reassure them of that support. This incident underscores, especially in the context of the larger environment, the importance of our work in promoting interfaith understanding and respect across lines of religious difference.”
The Pastor from Browncroft Community Church feels like there was a miscommunication and hopes to speak with President Braveman and create a more open dialogue this Thursday.
Browncroft Community Church did put out a statement on their Facebook page.
This story especially struck a chord with me–I could not help but think of my college days. I attended a Catholic university and we had a Church on campus. Moving off campus, I quickly realized I needed a place to pray, so I spoke with a Sister and she told I was welcome to pray in the Church where they also kept prayer rugs.
In this age of growing suspicion, I wonder if someone would have been suspicious of me.
It is incredible to see the support and tolerance by the members commenting on the Browncroft Facebook page as well as the support for the two students by the President of Nazareth College. But this suspicion and fear of Muslims have become too normalized.
And that normalcy of xenophobia and Islamophobia is upsetting, but also angering, especially because of groups.
First, the ones who decided to go against everything I and my faith stand for and become the representatives of Muslims worldwide when they are just hypocritical terrorists. When can I stop shouting that these jerks don’t represent me, they are not following Islam, I condemn, #notinmyname?
The second ones are the ones who uptake the opportunity to use this fear for their own power, who push their agenda under an exaggerated threat. Who turn normal hardworking Americans against other normal hardworking Americans. Whereas two students can’t walk into Church without being met with suspicion.