Student receives threat

An SPU student, who is Muslim and of Middle Eastern descent, is planning on leaving school and the United States due to a threatening letter left on his car last week, the student told The Falcon last night.

"Right now I’m just trying to let things cool off because I don’t want to put my life in danger," he said.

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the student did not expect to be the subject of any backlash. He viewed incidents of retaliation against Muslims and Middle Eastern people as isolated events, and that he was not in danger.

This all changed on Oct. 23, when he found the threat on the windshield of his car on W. Nickerson Street.

He found the note and reported it to SPU Safety and Security who alerted the Seattle Police Department.

The note threatened his physical safety, citing his ethnic background and religion as a reason for the threat, according to the Seattle Police report, which was filed that night. No suspects have been identified.

The Falcon has withheld the victim’s name to preserve his safety and the integrity of the investigation.

In the interview with The Falcon last night, the victim said he came to the United States nine years ago seeking to escape the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.

Before the Persian Gulf War, he was active in speaking out against Hussein’s dictatorship and was subsequently tortured and placed in an Iraqi jail. After he was released from jail and the Gulf War had ended, he came to the United States seeking to get away from the violence.

"It’s been very peaceful," he said of his time in the United States before receiving the threat.

Since he found the note, his life has changed dramatically. He has stopped coming to campus because he fears for his safety. He now checks his car before going anywhere to make sure that no one has done anything to it.

"I don’t go out at all right now. I go to work and I come home. I don’t go anywhere," he said.

He said that he is planning on leaving the country in the near future because he and his family fear for his well-being. He said he plans to go to Syria where his wife and mother live.

"My mom can’t sleep at night because she is so worried about me," he said.

Both the Seattle Police and SPU Safety and Security are continuing their investigations.

At SPU they are interviewing potential witnesses to track down who placed the note on the victim’s vehicle, according to Mark Reid, director of Safety and Security.

According to Reid, if the Seattle Police discovers who left the note on the victim’s vehicle, the perpetrator may face felony charges. There are a variety of laws the crime may fall under, but it depends on how the prosecutor feels about the evidence.

He said that it is clearly a serious offense.

Reid said that the threat, which was printed from a computer, was turned into the Seattle Police for investigation.

He said he cannot comment on details of the incident due to the ongoing investigation, which he said will continue until all leads are exhausted.

"I can’t reveal too many details without limiting our ability to find out what happened," Reid said.

According to Reid, officials at SPU have met with the student and offered support.

Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Kathleen Braden said that the first priority of OSL was to make sure that the victim was OK and had all the help he or she needed.

She said that Kevin McMahan, international student advisor, was asked to speak with the victim on the day following the threat.

"I did not know the student before this incident and I consider it a privilege to make him a friend since," McMahan said. "I think that what was done to him was very unjust and certainly not a way we want the SPU community to treat anybody."

SPU President Phil Eaton e-mailed faculty, staff and students yesterday to condemn the threat. "Rest assured we will take every step necessary to keep our community free of actions such as this. We must address hatred wherever it is found and try our best to bring the love of Christ in our midst," Eaton said in the e-mail.

Braden said she was upset when she found out about the threat.

"I was angry for the student who received the threat and I was angry at the disregard for our biblical principles as well as for our lifestyle expectations," Braden said. "I was also angry at how cowardly it was to leave the note like that and not find another method of discussing one’s views."

Braden said she is very interested in identifying who made the threat.

"I’m very hopeful that we will figure out who did this. We’re a very small community, and I think we will be able to narrow down who did it," Braden said. "I would want to have a conversation, big time, if we identify who the student is."

Braden said that anyone who might have knowledge about the threat should come forward with his or her information.

"It is important for students to know that this may be a civil crime and that they therefore do have an obligation to contact the SPD or the security office or both," Braden said.

Reid said that an incident like this has not occurred recently at SPU, but that there have been incidents where people have received harassing notes in the past.

According to Reid, there are precautions students can take to help ensure safety. For instance, Campus Security continues to encourage all students, especially those who feel they are in danger, to utilize the escort services provided by security to take students where they need to go on campus so they do not have to travel on foot alone.

"I think that the university has taken this manner very seriously and intends to find out who did this if possible and hold them accountable," Reid said.

"It disturbed me that it happened at a Christian university. I believe our community should understand better than most the differences in faith that bring our community together most of the time," Reid said.

The victim said that he considers himself and other people from the Middle East as American as the people who were killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"We are a part of this nation. Whatever happened to this nation happened to us also," he said. "These terrorists don’t want us to be united. If things like this keep happening, we will not be united. If that happens, the terrorists win."

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Title: Student receives threat | Author: Chris Cronin | Section: News | Published Date: 2001-10-31 | Internal ID: 2252