Muslim students leave area universities

Tuesday, September 25, 2001

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Anxious parents and anti-Muslim sentiments are prompting some international students attending universities in the region to pack their bags.

At least 45 University of Missouri international students have left since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, school officials said.

In Kansas, parents of two University of Kansas students were urging their children to return to Kuwait. There were no reports so far of Muslim students leaving Kansas State University.

Before the attacks, the University of Missouri was host to 160 students from the Middle East.

Harassment complaints

University police have received four or five complaints of harassment ranging from telephone calls to face-to-face encounters, said MU police spokesman Jack Watring.

One medical student reported receiving an e-mail that read: "I'm happy to see the world turning against the Arab pigs of the world. We will kill you all."

The College of Engineering has been especially affected by the departures, with 29 of 79 Middle Eastern students leaving.

"These are excellent students," said College of Engineering Dean Jim Thompson. "They are incredibly important to our program. We wish they wouldn't go home, and we've invited them to come back."

Students appear to be heavily influenced by the advice their home countries give. Before the departures, at least 40 of the 64 University of Missouri students from the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia received financial aid from government-controlled petroleum companies.

About half of the students who have left the university are from the United Arab Emirates, which is encouraging students to return home, said College of Engineering Associate Dean Jay McGarraugh.

So far, McGarraugh said, only three of 28 Saudi Arabian students have left. The petroleum company in that country has encouraged its students to stay.

There still are no reports of international students departing from the two largest universities in Kansas.

Joe Potts, director of International Student Services at the University of Kansas, said he has heard that two KU students from Kuwait are considering going back.

In Lawrence, he said, Middle Eastern students have been well-treated, but there have been several isolated incidents of Middle Eastern students being yelled at.

Students treated well

Students also have been treated well at Kansas State University, said Mohammad Al-Deeb, the president of the Islamic Center of Manhattan and the Muslim Student Association.

The Syrian native, who works closely with the international students, said he is not aware of any Muslim students leaving.

In the days after the terrorist attacks, he said, churches and nameless well-wishers left flower arrangements and greeting cards in the mosque where the Muslim students worship. He also received e-mails and phone calls from community groups offering to escort women who might be worried about leaving their homes.

"Children and ladies were hiding at home that first and second day," said Al-Deeb, a doctorate student in entomology. "Things are improving a lot with that nice treatment, though. It reflects a high understanding of the concept of diversity. That act of terrorism didn't shake that understanding."

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