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Tucson Islamic center experiences support following 2016 presidential election, last year's vandalism

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Last year, UA students were embarrassed to find themselves making national news when the New York Times published a story about the Islamic Center of Tucson being showered in glass bottles that were thrown down from the apartments surrounding the mosque.

There is a bright side to this dark chapter in the UA’s history. Following the article, the ICT received flowers, cards and emails of support from the Tucson community.

“I am overwhelmed with the messages of hate and fear all around us,” one card read. “But I have to believe that in the end, love wins.”

Now, more than a year later, the mosque rarely experiences such vandalism. That same embarrassment gave the mosque the momentum needed to push a solution to the problem.

“Issues of Muslims and refugees have come to light,” said Taha Hasan, board member at the ICT. Hasan mentioned that vandalism of the mosque was not a one-time event but happened sporadically for 18 months prior to the New York Times article.

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According to Hasan, the mosque worked with the Middle Eastern and North African Studies department, Ward 6 City Council member Steve Kozachik, and the UA to find a solution.

This involved speaking with the management of the surrounding apartments to adjust the lease agreement to involve a zero-tolerance policy for vandalism or throwing things from the balcony.

Hasan indicated that, since the adjustment, there was at least one instance where a resident was evicted from the Luna apartment complex for throwing trash off the balcony.

The strict policy has largely been successful with no major cases of vandalism happening since it was put in place.

Sol Y Luna was unavailable for comment.

The mosque hasn’t only received support following the vandalism. According to Hasan, the mosque again received flowers, cards and emails supporting them throughout the 2016 presidential election.

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“When you see the bad, it is hard to see the good,” Hasan said. “But there is a lot of good in Tucson.”

The Muslim community hasn’t been the only group to experience diversity issues. In March 2016, a letter of demands was written by 16 diversity groups on campus to both the administration and the Daily Wildcat.

That sparked the creation of the UA’s Diversity Task Force, which works to make recommendations and start conversations with the various departments and facilities throughout the UA.

While the Diversity Task Force pushes for broader diversity, they have no specific representation from the MENAS department.

Nonetheless, the task force has discussed the mosque vandalism as part of a broader concern for safety within one of its many subcommittees.

“The conversations evolved beyond just addressing the needs of a particular community, as opposed to addressing the needs of having a more diverse and inclusive campus overall.” said Bryan Carter, associate professor in Africana Studies and co-chair of the Diversity Task Force.


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