On Monday, Aug. 8, an online forum for people associated with the University of New Mexico was held on Zoom to discuss safety on and around campus after the deaths of four Muslim men across the state, including former Graudate and Professional Student Association President Muhammad Afzaal Hussain.
The forum’s panel included members of UNM’s Police Department, the Albuquerque Police Department and the APD-FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, along with Tahir Gauba, the director of public affairs from the Islamic Center of New Mexico.
“So, all we are asking right now to the broader community, just have each other back. You know, just be aware of your surrounding,” Gauba said.
The following night, members of the community came together at an interfaith gathering to honor the four men who had lost their lives. Omar Faruk, a student representative from the Muslim Student Association, spoke about the fear and grief they as students are feeling.
“Well, we have received more updates from the police and we hope to get more. We know that whether it's one or whatever, it doesn't matter. The disease that caused the person to cause this crime is still alive out there. And that's something that we need to work hard to eradicate. Whether it stops here or over there, it's in our community. It's in us and that's something we have to work on in ourselves and with each other,” Faruk said.
During the forum, Gauba suggested that UNM meet directly with students from Pakistan, where all of the victims were from, to better understand their concerns and what can be done to support them. Multiple Pakistani students have already left the state for safety, according to Gauba.
“I was hoping if you, UNM leadership, could have a sit-down with maybe a Pakistani Student Association or Pakistani students and talk to them and provide a special services because it'd be hard to tell what they need (from) the public forum like this,” Gauba said.
Since the forum, UNM has reached out to Pakistani and Muslim students to hear their safety concerns and provide resources, according to Aneela Abad from the Islamic Center of New Mexico.
UNMPD has expanded patrols south of campus, and APD has added more patrols on the southeast edge of the city. UNMPD provides escorts at any time, along with the UNM Hospital security team. UNMPD has also been working with the Global Education Department and Asian American and Pacific Islander Resource Center to discuss safety.
UNMPD Chief Joseph Silva went over general safety tips during the forum, including staying aware of your surroundings, refraining from listening to music, not walking alone at night, and letting people know where you are going and when you will arrive. The LoboGuardian app includes a timer that you can set that will automatically text your emergency contact if you do not turn it off when you arrive at your destination.
For students who do not feel safe attending classes in person, UNM will accommodate online learning through the LoboRESPECT Advocacy Center. The 311 hotline number offers other resources including access to support trauma counseling, requesting groceries and hot meal delivery. Student Health and Counseling and Agora Crisis center also offer counseling to students and community members, respectively.
At the gathering, Faruk spoke about the fear that students are feeling due to the recent deaths.
“I speak on the behalf of students: we are incredibly afraid. We’re very, very fearful, even with the developments as they are, but looking to the practice and the sunnah of our Prophet — peace be upon him — it's okay to be fearful. Our Prophet himself was a wanted man, but at the same time you taught us that we're just not the type to run away and to hide. We're not going to go anywhere,” Faruk said.
Madeline Pukite is the managing editor at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @maddogpukite