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UConn rallies against Islamophobic incident in wake of Paris attacks

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STORRS -- Several hundred students, faculty and staff at the University of Connecticut gathered for a rally on Monday to stand against an Islamaphobic incident that occurred in the wake of the recent terror attacks in Paris and other parts of the world.

The demonstration was organized in an effort to support UConn students who feel unsafe in the wake of the violent attacks in Paris, Beirut, Lebanon and Syria.

For more on the Paris attacks, go here.

UConn Nathan Hale graffittOver the weekend, the words "killed Paris" were written on the door of Egyptian student Mahmoud Hashem. Students said there is a sense of Islamophobia and a racist atmosphere on campus, even before the Paris attacks.

Hashem spoke at the rally, eloquently explaining why acts like this are unacceptable.

"I'm not a terrorist, I don't deserve that. I love America, I come to live in America, I love the people here, so don't treat me like a terrorist," Hashem, a civil engineering student, said.

Other students who felt like they could identify with the hatred that Hashem experienced turned up at the rally and spoke out as well.

"As a minority on campus we work to educate people about who we are; we are a religion of peace, we are a religion of knowledge and when people do these type of acts it means there is an ignorance, there's still a lack of knowledge on campus," said Shaheer Hassan, a UConn junior.

Students gathered at the half-circle at the back of the Wilbur Cross building on campus and around the steps.

The rally was organized by Anna Ziering, a UConn graduate student. She was motivated to do her small part in the larger issue that is in front of the world.

"I just felt like most of the problems in the world stem from a lack of empathy, and this was something that i could do. and it's small, but it's here, and I knew I wasn't the only one," Ziering said.

UConn president Susan Herbst released a statement in advance of the rally supporting it, and urging university offices to permit employees to attend:

A demonstration against discrimination and intolerance will be held today at noon in front of the Wilbur Cross Building on the Storrs campus. I urge our students, faculty and staff to attend and participate, if you are able to, to show support for this important and just cause.

The event was organized by our students after a fellow UConn student had a cruel and hurtful message anonymously directed at him because he is Muslim. This has no place at UConn; we are a better university than that – and I believe a better nation than that.

The true character of our university is thoughtful, welcoming, and caring – and has no patience for bigotry.

Once again, I hope you are able to attend.

(Supervisors: while ensuring adequate office or shift coverage, please allow staff to attend this event if they wish to. They do not need to utilize vacation or personal time to do so).