Moeser will not label SUV attack
It's not up to UNC-Chapel Hill to declare last week's SUV attack on campus an act of terrorism, Chancellor James Moeser said Thursday, responding to criticism from some students.
"The fact is, this is not the university's call," Moeser said. "The U.S. attorney will determine whether or not this is an act of terrorism."
The chancellor spoke to reporters about last Friday's attack, in which a driver in a Jeep Cherokee sport utility vehicle barreled through a crowded campus plaza, injuring nine people.
Mohammed Taheri-azar, a 22-year-old UNC-CH graduate, has been charged with nine counts of attempted first-degree murder and nine counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, inflicting serious injury.
Taheri-azar told police that he meant to kill people to avenge the treatment of Muslims around the world.
The event shocked the campus and made national headlines. Earlier this week, a small group of conservative students protested the university administration's response at The Pit, where the attack occurred. They carried signs that said, "Call it what it is," and "Support love, condemn terror."
"The chancellor should be out here with us, to be frank," said Luke Farley, speaker of the Student Congress at UNC-CH, as he held a sign and an American flag.
Moeser said he understands students' feelings.
"I agree, this could feel like terrorism, especially if you're standing in front of a Jeep that's heading toward you trying to kill you," Moeser said. "As we have investigated this, we've come more and more to the conclusion that this was one individual acting alone in a criminal act."
Moeser said there had been no indication that Taheri-azar was dangerous or that he shouldn't have been admitted to the university. He was a good student. "He was totally a loner, introverted and into himself," Moeser said.
At the time of the attack, the chancellor was in Greensboro watching the UNC-CH women's basketball team in the ACC Tournament. He began to get e-mail messages and calls on his cell phone. He said he was briefed by campus police and student affairs administrators, then returned to campus after the game. He communicated with students and parents by e-mail messages.
Of the nine people hit by the SUV, none was admitted to the hospital.
On Thursday, university officials were considering adding more security posts to steer vehicles clear of pedestrian areas. These posts, called bollards, were in place when the attack occurred March 3 but not in the exact spot where the SUV entered the sidewalk area.
UNC-CH is installing posts there and might add others.
The campus will start to empty today as students leave for spring break. Moeser said he is more worried about the safety of students when they travel to the beach than when they're on campus.
"If there's a safe place in America, it's the University of North Carolina," he said.
When students return March 20, there will be a special celebration in The Pit organized by students. Seth Dearmin, student body president, said there will be a moment of silence, musical performances and an upbeat gathering. There also will be panel discussions and educational events later in the week.
"We're here to heal together and lean on each other," Dearmin said.
Moeser said the campus quickly recovered, with students making plans for spring break and excitement building about the men's ACC Tournament.
Monday's protest was evidence that The Pit was back to business as usual, Moeser said.
The chancellor said there is no point in people politicizing what was an unfortunate event.
"This is not a liberal/conservative issue," he said. "There are people out there who try to put everything in those categories. This defies that."
This was after newsweek published the discredited articles about korans in Gitmo
Student reports Quran in campus toilet
STOCKTON -- A San Joaquin Delta College student discovered a copy of the Quran in a library toilet Wednesday evening, an incident similar to one described in a now-retracted news report that sparked Muslim protests worldwide last week.
Delta police wouldn't release the name of the student, whom they say found the Muslim holy book in the toilet of a second-floor men's bathroom in the library just after 7 p.m. Wednesday. Sgt. Geff Greenwood said the student removed the book from the toilet and placed it on a bathroom shelf before contacting the police.
The scenario mirrors one described in a retracted Newsweek article that led to deadly riots in Afghanistan and protests in other Muslim nations last week. That Newsweek article, citing unidentified sources, claimed interrogators at Guantanamo Bay had flushed a Quran down a toilet to intimidate detainees.
The Quran is the most revered book in Islam. Desecrating it is seen as an offense to Allah.
Word of the discovery spread quickly across the Delta campus Thursday morning. Muslim students said they were more disappointed than angry to learn that someone at school had desecrated the book.
"We have respect for all other religions," said Ramsey Abboushi, a 19-year-old Muslim student. "We can only hope to get that same respect."
Sean Khan, 19, is Muslim but doesn't seriously practice the religion. He still found it upsetting that someone chose to mock another's beliefs in such a way.
"If it was any religious materials, I'd be equally offended," Khan said. "It's just ignorant."
Wade Heath, an 18-year-old Christian student, said Delta is a culturally diverse campus and was surprised to learn about the discovery early Thursday. Heath is a Lutheran but understands why Muslims would be upset by the incident.
"If it was the Bible flushed down the toilet, I'd be angry," Heath said. "It's a total disrespect to somebody's beliefs."
Another Muslim student, Ahmed Falol, 19, said he thought it was probably a copycat of the Newsweek incident.
Greenwood said they would still likely pursue hate-crime charges if the person responsible is found.
Police have no suspects or leads. The book came from the library and is being held as evidence. Remaining copies of the Quran have been placed behind the library desk to prevent it from happening again, Greenwood said.
Abboushi said he doubts the person will ever be found.
"There are 20,000 kids that go to this school," Abboushi said. "They're not going to stop everyone and ask if they desecrated the Quran."