Fresno State excuses Muslim students from class after call for protests at mosques

There were no threats of anti-Muslim activity on campus, said Fresno State President Joseph Castro.
There were no threats of anti-Muslim activity on campus, said Fresno State President Joseph Castro. Fresno Bee file

Muslim students were excused from class at Fresno State on Friday, the Muslim Sabbath, after an anti-Muslim group called for protests at mosques across the country.

The Facebook page of the group, Global Rally for Humanity, detailed plans for rallies to be held at different cities over the weekend, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations issued a warning to mosques nationwide to take safety measures.

The anti-Muslim page touts a call to protest at mosques in more than 20 cities because “humanity is attacked daily by radical Islam.” In California, the map showed protests planned for Oakland and the Southern California city of Murrieta.

While no rallies were set for Fresno, Fresno State and the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno took precautions.

Lynnette Zelezny, Fresno State provost and vice president for student affairs, released a statement Thursday night, saying Muslim students would be excused from school Friday, citing “potential threats across the country.”

The initial statement was vague and caused some confusion, but Fresno State President Joseph Castro said no threats were made to the campus and that the action was taken at the request of the university’s Saudi Students Association.

“There was no specific incident that we were aware of, but because of the national situation, our students were concerned and we decided it would be best,” Castro said Friday. “I was happy that they reached out. We have a very strong relationship with all of our student groups, and felt if they wished to be excused, they could be.”

Seyed Ali Ghazvini, head of the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno, said the organization hired a security guard for the weekend and has been in contact with Fresno police, but no threats had been made Friday.

“We are taking precautions but we don’t anticipate anything happening here,” he said. “For us, it’s business as usual. I don’t think that this is something very serious.”

The center posted to Facebook on Friday, saying, “Salaam everyone. Regardless of the news of possible protests, today we will have our regularly scheduled Jumu’ah prayer.”

The Masjid Fresno Islamic Center posted a statement from the Islamic Society of North America to its Facebook page on Thursday, which urged members of the congregation to conduct voter registration drives at Islamic centers and promote awareness of the faith.

“These hate groups will be exercising their constitutional rights to engage in hateful speech and carry weapons with bullets. ISNA wants the Muslim community and other people of good conscience to also exercise their constitutional rights. But rather than hateful speech and bullets, we will engage with positive speech and the ballot box,” the statement said.

Mackenzie Mays: 559-441-6412, @MackenzieMays