WARNING: This story contains graphic language. Discretion is advised.
University of Calgary staff say they’ve never seen anything like the 40 or so posters spread across the main campus with the words “Dear Muslims” followed by an expletive-ridden list of practices and ending with “keep your barbaric ways right where they belong…in your 7th-century homelands.”
A student first spotted one of the posters at around 6:45 a.m. Tuesday and notified campus security staff, who began removing them. Staff said most students didn’t see the posters in person, but instead on social media.
“It’s not something we ever expect,” Muslim Students’ Association president Umair Tazeem said. “And it’s not something we see often. So whenever we do see it, it’s definitely sad to see and it’s definitely unfortunate.
“If you have any concerns with Islam, come speak to me about it. I’m not that different than you.”
Anyone who finds a poster is asked to hand it over to security on campus.
Kelsy Norman said he found three different posters on various campus buildings, tore them down and threw them in the trash.
“When I stopped and read it, I realized it was actually hate speech,” he said. “It was anti-Muslim propaganda.”
Norman called campus security and was told staff members were aware and removing the posters.
“Campus is an area that is very inclusive, it’s a place for people to talk freely about ideas, think critically of them…I just don’t feel this is the best way to talk critically of Islam and Muslims.”
A rally was held at noon to show “solidarity and support” and various Muslim student organizations were enlisted to provide support services available through the campus wellness centre.
“We want this, really, to have a positive outcome and to show the resiliency at the University of Calgary,” university president Elizabeth Cannon said. “We hope that the perpetrators can be identified, and held to account.”
The manager of the school’s faith and spirituality centre said an interreligious student alliance would be launched this month.
“We… invite student clubs to join together in shared values, understanding and solidarity,” Adriana Tulissi said in a statement.
Premier Rachel Notley spoke out about the posters and said she was troubled by them and added she hoped people would speak out against hatred.
“We embrace inclusion and acceptance and mutual understanding. That’s the kind of province that we’re building and you know what – it makes our province stronger when we commit to building that,” she told reporters.
University security staff are working with Calgary police to examine CCTV footage to try to identify and locate suspect(s). Police said it’s too early to categorize the incident as a hate crime, but it will be investigated.
“These are disturbing, extremely offensive posters that in no way reflect the inclusive, diverse and caring culture of this university,” Cannon said.
With files from Reid Fiest and The Canadian Press.