The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Editorial – Politicizing adjunct’s faith was low blow

Illustration+by+Aftin+Gavin%2FThe+Collegian
Illustration by Aftin Gavin/The Collegian

In the aftermath of the NE Campus astronomy class that led to a mass walkout of scared and confused students, a visit from the police and an instructor’s suspension, it’s time to take a breath and reflect.

Daniel Mashburn was suspended after he arrived to Solar System class late, face covered, turning the lights off, fidgeting with his pocket and quoting the Quran. His behavior was so bizarre and alarming to students that many left and the police were called.

Two days after the story was first broadcast on Fox 4 News, the story spread to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and The Dallas Morning News to Fox News, Breitbart and London’s Daily Mail.

After watching the comments across social media, it became very clear: Islamophobia is still a huge issue.

While Mashburn has not gone through the process of reversion, the official process of entering the Muslim faith, and has read the Quran on his own as well as researched Islam online, he is a self-proclaimed Muslim. And it didn’t take long for others to jump on this detail of the story.

Students revealed in their interviews that Mashburn wasn’t being preachy, nor did they feel religion played a role in why they decided to leave class. But the story became more about the fact that he identified himself as a Muslim and quoted the Quran in class as the story moved through bigger circles and into national media.

Comments accused him and Muslims of attempting to “indoctrinate” innocent and unsuspecting college students, blaming Islam for “creating so many gd idiots” and so on. Despite Mashburn being a white native of Tennessee, many comments mentioned how he needed to go back to his country and the topic of immigration was discussed. The comments get more vile the further one scrolls, which is true of many things on the internet, but it only highlights just how bad Islamophobia has become.

People took the chance to politicize and further polarize people over a story that had less to do with Islam and more to do with students having genuine fear about someone coming into their night class, whose face they couldn’t see and whose hand was stuck and fussing with something in his pocket, never identifying himself clearly as the teacher for their class.

Students were on edge for very base and non-Islamophobic reasons. Their vision was hindered by the dark lighting and coupled with him digging in his pockets, students were left with mapping out how they would leave class if anything happened.

With the amount of stories covered about campus shootings, including the two high school shootings that have taken place since the Jan. 16 class, and one of those happening in nearby Ellis County, the worry of a weapon was an understandable one. According to The New York Times Jan. 24, in the first three weeks of 2018, there have been 11 school shootings.

As sad as it is, this world is on edge. It is volatile, with stories seemingly coming up daily about terrorist attacks and shootings. Because we are continuously exposed to this world, we think on edge in situations that defy social norms or push against what “should” be happening in general situations.

A teacher wouldn’t normally turn the lights off when coming into a classroom, though Mashburn argued artificial light could hinder one’s night vision. A teacher wouldn’t normally keep his face covered, especially if students complained about not being able to hear the lecture well, but Mashburn argued it was to protect his hands and face in the dry winter weather. But that wasn’t communicated to students.

All of this, plus the fact that this was the first time students ever saw Mashburn. Of course, students were afraid this could turn out to be a bad situation, one that could ultimately end up with bad or even deadly outcomes. Thankfully, when searched by police, Mashburn had no weapon. Thankfully, the situation was only a story about how students left campus due to their instructor’s weird behavior instead of it escalating.

So as this semester chugs along and this investigation moves forward, don’t lose sight of the bigger picture: No student deserves to fear for their safety while trying to get an education.

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