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Muslim college students say no coincidence Islamic center was vandalized during Eid al-Fitr

Muslim students at Rutgers University feel unsafe after vandalism of campus center
Muslim students at Rutgers University feel unsafe after vandalism of campus center 02:40

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. -- Some Muslim students at Rutgers University say they don't feel safe after the Islamic center on campus was vandalized on the holy holiday of Eid al-Fitr, celebrated at the end of Ramadan. 

A community, including Christians, came to pray and support Muslim students at the Center for Islamic Life at Rutgers University. Muslim leaders said the place is sacred to many, and that it was vandalized Wednesday. 

"I think it's appalling what happened here. It's awful. So we stand with them and behind them," Christian chaplain Matt Murphy. 

"Our only safe space here got destroyed on Eid, and our Palestinian flag was taken, and that's all the messaging you really need to know," student Nehad Ali said. 

The center's chaplain said not only was the Palestinian flag stolen, but art pieces with verses from Quran were destroyed, and windows were shattered. 

The attorney general's office and Middlesex county prosecutors have launched an investigation. 

Despite support from around the world, Muslim students say they don't feel safe on campus. 

A student described being stared at for wearing a keffiyah to show solidarity with the Palestinians. 

"I can say I've literally been walking the street, and someone turns to me and says 'Are you one of those "free Palestine" people,' just as a taunt," student Ansiah Mahmood said. 

Nora Asker, the Muslim Public Relations Council president, said she's been telling Rutgers officials for weeks Muslim and Arab students, especially those of Palestinian descent, need protection as the Israel-Hamas war continues. 

"Islamophobia has been plaguing our campus, manifesting in verbal harassment of students, physical acts of hate and and Islamophobic threats left on personal property and vehicles," Asker said. 

Rutgers officials said they condemn what happened at the center and take every claim of bias and hate seriously, and that the well-being of all students is a top priority. They also say Rutgers Police will continue to increase public safety on and around the New Brunswick campus. 

"I unequivocally condemn this act of violence," Chancellor Fancine Conway said. 

Chaplain Kaiser Aslam said authorities have surveillance video from inside and outside. 

"Whatever the intention was, to hurt or scare or whatever the case was, it didn't work. It did quite the opposite, and show the resolve we have as a community," Aslam said. 

Both Gov. Phil Murphy and the attorney general released statements saying they are disgusted about what happened. Murphy added there's no room for Islamophobia in New Jersey. 

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