Muslim student claims ethnic intimidation on Cranbrook campus

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published June 20, 2016

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BLOOMFIELD HILLS — A 17-year-old Cranbrook Schools student was allegedly the victim of an anti-Islam attack late last month, according to reports.

The Dearborn-based American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee of Michigan released a statement June 9 detailing the incident involving a female student who said she was verbally then physically assaulted on the school’s grounds.

“She and her elderly mother were subjected to a barrage of insults, including ‘ISIS,’ ‘raghead’ and ‘terrorist,’ to name a few,” ADC-Michigan Director Fatina Abdrabboh said in the release. “The group of men also verbally harassed the victim’s mother and screamed racist epithets at her while they repeatedly warned her to ‘go back to your country, or we will blow your a-- up.’”

The victim, who wishes to remain anonymous, said the attack started in a school parking lot when her family came to visit her and some unidentified young men yelled slurs at them from a pickup truck before speeding away.

“We were probably attacked because my mom does wear the hijab,” she said.

Then, about 10 minutes later, the victim was running on the campus’ grounds when five tall white men, who she said she didn’t recognize, appeared and surrounded her on the trails.

“I tried to get away, and they pushed me back down and tried to keep me there,” she said.

It wasn’t until the suspects heard people walking nearby with a dog that they dispersed and left the student alone, she said.

“I was really disgusted and shocked and stayed in the woods for a really long time. I couldn’t believe what had happened. I jog around campus every day,” she said, adding that she was pushed hard but did not sustain serious physical injuries from the attack.

“I always felt safe running alone. There was never a reason for me to be afraid for my safety until this happened.”

The release goes on to say that Cranbrook has done little to ensure the student’s safety since the incident occurred May 25, and it asks the school to launch a hate crime probe against the attackers, who could be fellow students, according to Abdrabboh.

“The way the administration is acting is that they’re more concerned about nobody finding out about this as opposed to finding out who did this,” she said. “We’re letting the investigation do what it needs to do, but the family feels like Cranbrook hasn’t been timely the way it should have. The police are only as good as what you get to them and the time in which you get it to them.”

Bloomfield Hills Public Safety Chief David Hendrickson confirmed that his department received word of the incident, but he couldn’t provide more details as the case is still under investigation.

“There was a report of ethnic intimidation on May 25 — actually, they filed it on May 26. We don’t have any suspects at the moment, but we’re investigating,” said Hendrickson.

He disagreed with Abdrabboh’s accusations that Cranbrook hasn’t been aiding police efforts to find the alleged attackers.

“They’ve been 100 percent cooperative,” Hendrickson said. “We’ve had an excellent relationship with Cranbrook, both with their security department and leadership. Sometimes there may be a perception that in investigations it is taking a long time, but we have to be very thorough and complete.”

Cranbrook officials said that regarding the incident, they still have a few questions of their own.

“We are surprised and disappointed to hear these inflammatory allegations that are inconsistent with the ongoing police and school investigation. Cranbrook Schools is a diverse community, enrolling students from 22 countries and from every walk of life.  We have long celebrated the value of diversity in all of its forms and absolutely do not tolerate acts of harassment or discrimination. In order to preserve the integrity of the ongoing investigation, we can make no further comment at this time,” Clay Matthews, director of communications for Cranbrook Schools, said in an email.

The victim called the school’s scrutiny of her attack “victim shaming.”

Matthews declined to comment on whether the school met with the victim last week to further the investigation following ADC-Michigan’s call for a probe.

Abdrabboh did not respond to requests for comment on any updates in the investigation before press time.

Lt. Noel Clason, of the Bloomfield Hills Public Safety Department, who is heading the investigation, said he did meet with the victim last week to get more information, but couldn’t go into more detail since the investigation is still ongoing.