UW Bothell investigates report of bias against Muslim women

BOTHELL — Officials are investigating a report that Muslim women on the University of Washington Bothell campus allegedly were approached by several men demanding that they remove their hijabs, or headscarves.

Bjong Wolf Yeigh, chancellor of the UW Bothell, denounced the incident in a message to students Tuesday.

“This type of behavior is abhorrent and will not be tolerated at UW Bothell,” he said.

It constitutes a potential criminal assault and a hate crime, he said. Hijabs are headscarves worn by Muslim women.

Many details of the incident remain unclear, including exactly when it occurred and who reported it to the university.

“We don’t have an official report yet,” Lisa Hall, spokeswoman for UW Bothell, said Wednesday. “We’re still gathering information.”

University officials think it occurred sometime mid- to late last week, she said.

It was not reported initially to campus police or administration, Hall said. “But we’re looking into it now.”

In his statement, Yeigh said that the incident involved “several of our Muslim women students.”

However, when asked if it had been confirmed that the women were students at UW Bothell, Hall said, “We’re still gathering the facts.”

Yeigh’s statement called on people to report instances of bias or discrimination. Such instances will be followed up aggressively, he said.

Hall said the campus is instituting an online form for students and staff to report any type of bias. The form is expected to be activated Thursday.

A campus team will investigate each report and decide who should respond, she said. Notices of the new reporting form will be posted on several places on the university’s website.

Hall said she didn’t know how long the investigation into the hijab report might take.

“We hope to learn more as we go along,” Hall said. Campus officials are working with student leaders, she said.

“What we want to do is make sure our students feel safe when they’re on campus,” Hall said. “Every single one is a valued member of this community.”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.

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