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ASU student accuses University of racial profiling

Christian Science Monitor op-ed on international students features photo of American-born alumnae

Arizona State University master’s student Nshwah Ahmad, 22, poses for a portrait outside of her parent’s restaurant in Mesa, Arizona, on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2017, where she met with media after ASU President Michael Crow wrote an op-ed for the Christian Science Monitor about the value of international students that featured a photo of her from her undergraduate graduation. Ahmad was born in Dearborn Heights, Michigan.

An ASU master’s student is accusing the University of racial profiling as she and two other alumnae, all Americans, were recently featured in a photo accompanying an article on international students.

Nshwah Ahmad, Anna Salibi and Diala Manfoukh, three Arab American alumnae all born in the U.S., were featured as the main photo  accompanying an article Michael Crow wrote for the Christian Science Monitor about the importance of international students.

Ahmad, who was wearing a headscarf in the picture along with Manfoukh, said the incident reflects the current political climate as well as the public perception of Muslim-Americans.

The photo has since been replaced and the University has reached out to Ahmad to apologize — she said that while she is thankful the University was quick to make the correction, it doesn’t change what happened.

In the University’s statement, ASU cited meeting a deadline as the reason for the mistake, but said it is inexcusable.

“Over the weekend, the ASU media relations team made a mistake related to the international students op-ed that Dr. Crow wrote,” the statement said. “In our search for a compelling image on a tight deadline to go along with Dr. Crow’s op-ed we passed along a picture to the publisher without doing enough due diligence on the people featured in it. There is no excuse for the error, and apologies have been issued to the alumnae in the picture.”

Ahmad said the incident only adds to a similar strain of national attention. 

“Not only is it racial profiling, it kind of fuels what’s going on with the political climate now and what the administration is trying to push forward, which is erasing Arab Muslim’s identities as Americans,” Ahmad said. “It’s happened before to students previously, and nothing’s changed. It just keeps happening again.”

Ahmad said the incident is offensive because it could have been easily avoided.

“It’s overwhelming, for sure, and it’s offensive,” Ahmad said. “It’s very disappointing because I love ASU, I love being a Sun Devil. To love my school so much and have them do that to me, which could have been completely avoided had someone done their job and checked the facts.”

Lena Sarsour, a friend of Ahmad's and a Muslim American, said she was hurt by mistake.

“Muslims are from all over the world, but most people assume that most Muslims are Arab,” Sarsour said. “Muslims are black, Chinese, Japanese. This (situation) says we aren’t a part of the American fabric and it’s kind of out casting us, and that’s what makes it not fair.”

Sarsour said the situation proves that dialogue is still needed to move forward and prevent mistakes like these from happening.

“We love this country and it isn’t fair to say that we’re international students or that we aren’t from here just because we’re of a different religion,” Sarsour said. “There needs to be more dialog that invites other Muslims to the table so we can share our stories and enhance the culture of social change. We are American.”

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