EAST LANSING, Mich.
Muslim organizations have asked Michigan State University to reprimand a professor who sent a Muslim student group an e-mail in which he labeled Muslims “brutal and uncivilized” and told them to “return to their ancestral homelands.”
Dr. Indrek S. Wichman, a tenured professor in the mechanical engineering department, sent the university’s Muslim Student Association an e-mail chiding their protests against posted caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.
“I am offended not by cartoons, but by more mundane things like beheadings of civilians, cowardly attacks on public buildings … the rapes of Scandinavain (sic) girls and women (called ‘whores’ in your culture),” read the Feb. 28, 2006 e-mail, sent from Wichman’s university e-mail account.
“I counsul (sic) you dissatisfied, aggressive, brutal, and uncivilized slave-trading Moslems to be very aware of this as you proceed with your infantile ‘protests,’” read the e-mail. “If you do not like the values of the West — see the 1st Ammendment (sic) — you are free to leave. … Please return to your ancestral homelands and build them up yourselves instead of troubling Americans.”
The Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Muslim Student Association went public with the e-mail on Monday after failing to get the university to reprimand Wichman. During three meetings with university officials, the groups asked the university to offer diversity and sensitivity training to all incoming freshman and faculty, particularly Wichman, but received no response.
“Michigan State University has had more issues than just this,” says Dawud Walid, executive director of the CAIR’s Michigan chapter. In particular, he recalls recent incidents in which gasoline was thrown on a Black student and a Neo-Nazi rally was held near campus.
“There are Muslim students on campus who are apprehensive. [They have] fears that other professors at the university have this type of animosity toward Muslim students,” Walid says.
“The university needs to take appropriate action in this case to demonstrate through its actions that anti-Muslim bigotry will not be tolerated on campus. At the end of the day, we want a more harmonious and healthy learning environment for all the students at Michigan State University.”
University officials say Wichman’s e-mail is protected by freedom of speech laws and that there was little they could do. University spokesman Terry Denbow told the Detroit Free Press that Wichman was warned further comments like those contained in the e-mail “could constitute the creation of a hostile environment” and trigger a complain under the university’s anti-discrimination policy.
“I regret that they have made this private communication a public matter. It has no bearing on my profession and is not connected to my work or professional pursuits, and is a private matter,” Wichman reportedly wrote in an e-mail to the Detroit Free Press.
— Toni Coleman
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