For the second time in less than a month, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is calling out individuals in Denver for alleged anti-Muslim actions.
The latest incident involves a woman hurling F-bombs at Muslim students praying at Metropolitan State University of Denver, captured on video December 2. It follows accusations of "blatant racial profiling" from Gazella Bensreiti, a hijab-wearing Muslim mother of three girls, after a November 5 visit to the nearby Pepsi Center.
The company that handles security for the Pepsi Center defended its employee against racism charges; the employee had initially refused to let Bensreiti enter the arena unless she removed her headwear. But Gadeir Abbas, a CAIR attorney working with Bensreiti, told us: "The idea that it’s okay to humiliate someone and treat them like a second class citizen as long as you do it quickly is shameful and deeply offensive to all Americans that value religious freedom."
Now the Colorado chapter of CAIR is demanding disciplinary action against the woman involved in the Metro incident. She's presumed to be a student; the confrontation took place in a campus computer lab.
Here's the tweeted video, in which the woman can be heard saying "Fuck your religion" and "Fuck you and your family:"
In a second tweet, the video sender wrote: "We come to this lab every M/W night to pray and never had an issue with anybody at all. They’re very respectful, and we keep it as quiet as possible. But with her, she was immediately triggered by the sound of our Salat."
Metro's response to the video, which has racked up nearly 13,000 views and collected more than 24,000 likes at this writing, also came via Twitter. The first part of its message reads: "MSU Denver was made aware early today of a verbal altercation between multiple students in a campus computer lab. MSU Denver takes its commitment to diversity very seriously and places a high value on cultivating and sustaining a respectful and inclusive campus community."
It continues: "We are currently investigating the circumstances surrounding this incident and the student's potential affiliation with the University and the Auraria Campus."
Metro president Janine Davidson also sent an email to students on December 3, in which she reminds them that "the Center for Multicultural Excellence and Inclusion (JSSB 237) and the Center for Equity and Student Achievement (JSSB 238) are resources for support and community spaces available to students who would like to engage in further dialogue."
CAIR-Colorado acting board chair Krista Cole offers this statement: "Our religious freedoms grant us the right to practice our faith publicly and to be free of harassment or intimidation while doing so. We urge MSU Denver to continue investigating this incident and work to ensure all students are comfortable practicing their faith on campus."
For his part, Abbas doesn't think the Mile High City stands out from other major municipalities, despite what he describes as "two high-profile incidents of anti-Muslim discrimination in Denver." Indeed, he says, "I would probably go the other way. Denver has been the site of resettlement for many Iraqi refugees. I had relatives who resettled from overseas to Denver."
However, he notes, "anti-Muslim sentiment is surging in all parts of the country, and I think the Muslim community is collectively bracing itself for another election year, since it seems to go up every presidential cycle.... Schools, workplaces, stadiums, they're all going to reflect these anti-Muslim sentiments, and I think a lot of times when one of these incidents happen, others can follow. We've definitely seen clusters in other parts of the country as well....
"This is not necessarily something specific to Denver, but indicative of a larger national trend."