Last week, an OU staff member received an anti-Muslim pamphlet on campus while walking to class.
Mashhad Fahes, assistant professor in the Mewbourne School of Petroleum and Geological Engineering, said as she walked across the North Oval Nov. 15, someone handed her a pamphlet entitled "Camel's in the Tent." Fahes said she did not immediately understand what she received.
“Someone just handed me this pamphlet … (and said) something along the lines of, ‘Oh, you’ll appreciate this,’” Fahes said.
“I said, 'Thank you,' just took the booklet and walked off,” Fahes said. “And as I was walking, I looked at it ... it had a camel drawing, so I right away connected that it must have something about Arab customs. I went through it quickly, without reading but just looking at the pictures, and it was — it looked very offensive.”
Fahes said she called the OU Police Department to report the incident and was told someone else had already made a report and someone from OUPD was on their way to the scene.
OUPD Maj. Bruce Chan said OUPD has no record of either report nor of a response from Nov. 15. OU Press Secretary Corbin Wallace said in an email that he had not heard about the incident either.
Though she was not sure how to report the incident other than through the OUPD, Fahes said she also made a Facebook post to show others what happened to her. She said the OU community’s response to her post and to post-election life has been “unbelievable.”
“I just posted it on my Facebook as something that has happened that made me feel uncomfortable and probably would make a lot of people uncomfortable. These things, they shouldn’t stay hidden — we should share what’s happening,” Fahes said. “And then after that, a lot of people spoke with me about it after they saw the post or heard about it from someone else.”
Fahes said she has never felt unsafe on campus, but she knows others who have.
“Since the day after the election, a lot of my friends all across campus have been reaching out and making sure that I’m okay, that I feel safe. A lot of people have told me that they’re willing to go with me to places if I feel uncomfortable,” Fahes said.
In conversations after the incident, Fahes said she has encountered people who say the pamphlet incident had nothing to do with the election. She said she disagrees with this perspective.
Fahes, originally from Lebanon, said though she is disappointed in the country she once held in high regard, she does not feel defeated in the wake of election results.
“I came to this country because I believe in American values, all of them — at least, what I thought were American values,” Fahes said.
“It’s not the country I thought it was,” Fahes said, reflecting on post-election America. “But I have hope, because I’m not someone who would give up. So, I want to look at the roots of this, and one of the main roots is that you fear what you don’t know.”
Dialogue and understanding are now the keys to moving forward and breaking through that fear of the unknown, Fahes said. She said one example of this tie between fear and ignorance is the booklet she received.
“It’s not about the hatred that bothers me, it’s about the lies,” Fahes said. “Anybody who would read it not knowing the truth would fall for this — not everybody, but a lot of people would fall for this, and I could imagine how they would be scared. So we need to educate — this is what we need to do. We need to educate people, we need to reach out and listen to their fears, listen to their problems.”