"What we have here is a climate where Islamaphobia is not only considered mainstream, it's considered patriotic by some, and that's something that makes these kinds of attacks even more despicable," says Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. [ Editor's note: The original version misnamed the center's university.]
The only facts not in dispute surrounding the events of that late Saturday night at Guilford are that a fight occurred, racial slurs were thrown as well as fists, and people were hurt. The three Palestinian students, one of whom was a visitor from North Carolina State University, all sustained concussions and contusions. One also has a broken jaw, another a broken nose. And a third has back injuries. All have been released from the hospital.
"At the end of the day, we believe the facts will show they were attacked by a group of individuals, and it was an unprovoked attack," says Seth Cohen, a lawyer who is representing the Palestinian students.
The father of one of the football players, who was arrested and charged, released a picture to the media that showed his son had a bruise shaped like a belt buckle on his back. He says that is proof the football players were not the only culpable ones. In a statement released to the media last Friday, he wrote: "When all of the facts are revealed, we believe that those who are sensationalizing this story will be rightly embarrassed...."
The college administration, which has its own independent investigation under way, is determined to quell the excited emotions on both sides of the debate. It has said it will not pass any judgments until its review is complete.
"We seek truth, justice, and reconciliation," Guilford College President Kent Chabotar told students at an open forum last Wednesday. "Those are hard – impossible to achieve without due process and without listening to each other."
That determination to uphold the Quaker value of patience has angered some students at Guilford who believe that the college should be moving faster to label the incident a hate crime. During the past week, they've held candlelight vigils, staged a one-day boycott of classes, and held repeated meetings with top college officials.