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Arrest made after Quran found damaged in Hayden Library interfaith room

On Wednesday, a student found the Quran and other literature ripped up, along with some pages burnt

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The entrance to the Hayden Library basement is pictured on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, in Tempe, Arizona.

The ASU Police Department made an arrest Thursday evening following the investigation of damage to a Quran in the Interfaith Reflection Room at Hayden Library Wednesday.

ASU PD arrested Wesley Waggoner after Hayden Library staff reported him for causing additional damage to the building, according to an ASU press release. Waggoner was charged with criminal damage and possession of drug paraphernalia, and was found to have two warrants, the release said.

ASU PD Chief Michael Thompson said in the release the department was still working to investigate "the circumstances and reasoning surrounding these actions."

According to an ASU Library webpage, Monday through Friday, Hayden Library is open to visitors from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Waggoner does not appear in ASU's online student and staff directory.

Wid Alsabah, a junior studying biomedical engineering, said she found the Quran in the Hayden Library Interfaith Reflection Room around noon Wednesday, with some pages of the Quran ripped up and some burnt. In addition to the Quran, Alsabah said she found pages of a magazine and a prayer book ripped up.

A side of the Interfaith Reflection Room was damaged with holes through the drywall. Alsabah said the overhead light of the room was also broken. Alsabah notified staff at the Hayden Library front desk of the damages, who then contacted ASU PD. 

Ripped pages of a Quran, prayer book and magazine are scattered in the Interfaith Reflection Room at Hayden Library on ASU's Tempe campus on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021.

"The place smelled like something was burnt," Alsabah said. "When I saw the whole thing, I was very angry. I just broke down in tears because I didn't know how to handle it."

Alsabah and her friends used the same interfaith room Tuesday evening and "didn't see anything suspicious," she said.

Omar Tawil, the Imam of the Islamic Community Center of Tempe, adviser for the ASU Muslim Students Association and University Chaplain for Muslim students at ASU, said the common way to properly dispose of a Quran is to burn it.

"It's kind of an irony," Tawil said. "Sometimes people try to burn the Quran in a way to disrespect Muslims when that's probably the most appropriate way to dispose of it."

Tawil said ASU PD would return the damaged Quran to him to be properly disposed of after the investigation is complete.

"It is something that we should only allow to increase us in our unity, our compassion and empathy for each other, and therefore, we rise above," Tawil said.

Multiple ASU student organizations took to social media Wednesday to share statements on the incident, calling it a hate crime, including the Multicultural Solidarity Coalition, the Women's Coalition and the Muslim Students Association. 

"The safety concerns of the Muslim students on campus cannot go unheard or unattended," MSA said in an Instagram post.

ASU PD spokesperson Adam Wolfe said in an email the incident will be listed as a hate crime in the University's Annual Security and Fire Safety Report. He also said ASU PD is "actively investigating if any prejudicial motivations were present." 

The incident will be the first recorded hate crime at ASU in multiple years. The University's 2021 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report, published in October and mandated by the Clery Act, recorded no hate crimes on ASU campuses in 2020, 2019 or 2018.

The report defines a hate crime as "any traditional criminal offense that is committed against a person or property that is motivated by a victim's actual or perceived race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, gender identity, or sexual orientation."

However, "hate crime" will not be listed under the charges for the incident. Arizona "has no 'hate crime' category, as it’s considered an aggravating factor and not an independent crime," Wolfe said in the email. 

"So if prejudicial motives are found, it will be listed as aggravated criminal damage," Wolfe said.

The Arizona chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a nationwide nonprofit Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization, also released a statement Thursday condemning the incident.

"University officials, along with state and federal law enforcement authorities must take this matter seriously to ensure that students of all faiths at Arizona State University have a safe learning environment," CAIR-Arizona Executive Director Azza Abuseif said in the statement.

According to Tawil, MSA met with the ASU Dean of Students, Office of the University Provost and Thompson on Thursday regarding the incident. Tawil said the University told him the incident "goes inherently against the values of ASU."

"They're definitely with and in support of the Muslim students, and this is something that they're taking very seriously to figure out what we can do to ensure it doesn't happen again," Tawil said.

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Jasmine KabiriAssignment Editor

Jasmine Kabiri is the assignment editor at The State Press, overseeing and editing stories produced by the six digital desks. She has previously worked as a reporter at The Daily Camera and Cronkite News.

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