September 7, 2011
In wake of 9/11, Bloomington Muslims found support from local community
Threats, harassment occurred, but city's religious leaders, other groups rallied around their Muslim neighbors
By Dann Denny
September 7, 2011, last update: 9/7 @ 12:50 am
In the days following Sept. 11, 2001, Nazif Shahrani's office was inundated with phone calls.
"I was on the hot seat," said Shahrani, an Indiana University professor of anthropology and of Middle Eastern and Central Eurasian studies. "In July, I'd just been appointed chairman of the department of Near Eastern languages and cultures and director of the Middle Eastern and Islamic studies program, so I was getting some hateful phone calls; as well as calls from members of the Muslim community, particularly Muslim students on campus, who were worried about how the Bloomington community might react to them."
To be sure, some local Muslims were verbally abused or threatened in the days following the 9/11 attacks. Particularly vulnerable to such attacks were women wearing hijabs, head coverings traditionally worn by Muslim women, which made their faith visible to observers.
"Two IU female students from Malaysia were verbally abused and threatened when riding a campus bus," Shahrani said. "My wife, who wears a hijab, was harassed and threatened while eating in a restaurant."
But Shahrani said these incidents were few and far between, and did not create a widespread cloud of fear.
"On the whole, the community rallied around Muslims and spoke up and supported them," he said. "It was very gratifying to see churches and synagogues express their support for the Muslim community."
Shahrani said he received phone calls and emails from colleagues and neighbors, many of whom invited him into their homes if he felt unsafe.
"There was an overwhelming sense of protectiveness toward Muslims," he said. "People said they realized it was a small element of the larger Muslim community that committed those crimes."
But in March 2003, Bloomington's Muslim community suffered a setback when it became the object of an FBI investigation that came to light during a two-week airplane surveillance of the city in late February of that year.
During that time, FBI officials interrogated a number of international students at Indiana University, as well as most leaders in the local Muslim community.
That same year, Channel 13 did a three-part series about the possibility of terrorists living in Bloomington. The station reported that an alleged al-Qaida operative, Juma Al Dosari, apparently had ties to the Bloomington Islamic Center.
The report said Al Dosari had recruited six young American men for a terrorist camp in Afghanistan, and that in 2001 he spent several months as a paid employee of the mosque -- working as a prayer leader.
That assertion was never proven and the FBI will not talk about it. But the fallout from that TV report, as well as the FBI investigations, left many Bloomington Muslims feeling wary.
"We were very concerned," Shahrani said. "It was a very tense time for us."'
Today, Shahrani said, most Muslims feel fully embraced by Bloomingtonians. He said after Ramadan, Islam's month of fasting, Muslims usually break their fast with a meal at the Unitarian Universalist Church, an event that includes fellowship and prayer.
He said Muslims have also had a number of meals and other events with members of the Beth Shalom Congregation and the Monroe County Religious Leaders. Last December, a handful of local Muslims met with members of the Beth Shalom Congregation at their synagogue to express their support for the Jewish community after it had been shaken by a half-dozen anti-Semitic acts of vandalism.
Shahrani said Tuesday a panel of six Muslim students and faculty members met at the Maurer School of Law to discuss the impact of 9/11 over the past decade. The event was sponsored by the Center for the Study of the Middle East, Near Eastern languages and cultures department, and Muslim Students Union at Indiana University.
"All in all, we feel very grateful to be living in Bloomington," he said. "During the past 10 years, we have seen our mosque firebombed and damaged in other ways, but after each of those instances the community, particularly the faith-based community, has rallied to our support. We feel both proud and fortunate to be part of the Bloomington community."
Faiz Rahman, former president of the Islamic Center and an IU associate professor in Indiana University's department of geography, said each year on the anniversary of 9/11 the Bloomington mosque, along with mosques all over the country, have services in which the Muslim leaders talk about the tragedy.
"In our mosque, the prayer leader gives a sermon in which he talks about how terrorism goes against Islam, and stresses the importance of explaining to our non-Muslim friends in the community that just because some people did some terrible things in the name of Islam, it doesn't mean we are part of that," he said. "The leader also says we should not have to apologize for something someone else has done."
Rahman said there are some members of Bloomington's Muslim community who express some measure of fear whenever Sept. 11 comes around, especially if they have felt the sting of hate speech in the past.
"But this is a college town with people from many different countries, so there are not a lot of Muslims who are fearful," he said. "I've lived in Bloomington for four years now, and I would characterize Bloomington's reaction to Muslims on 9/11 as being basically positive."
Rahman said The Herald-Times has helped ease potential tensions by writing stories that accurately reflect the peace-loving spirit of local Muslims, and said Indiana University officials -- in planning a number of 9/11 events this year -- reached out to Muslim faculty members, asking for their participation.
Rahman said one lingering aspect of 9/11 that he finds troublesome on a national level is the perception that it's OK for certain politicians and TV talking heads to demonize Muslims as a monolithic group without any backlash.
"Muslims are the only group in this country that people can publicly vilify without being chastised," he said. "If someone were to say similar things about African-Americans, for example, there would be many non-African-American groups that would vocally denounce that."
Hopefully, IU's second act will be better
By Andy Graham
September 6, 2011, last update: 9/5 @ 11:34 pm
Some plays and musicals intended for Broadway open elsewhere, for a trial run, to work out any kinks in the production and test the material in front of audiences. They "open out of town," as the phrase goes.
Kevin Wilson's Indiana football production opened Saturday night off-Bloomington, before a Ball State-orchestrated crowd in Indianapolis, and basically bombed.
Bad reviews. Jaded critics were savage. The audience either jeered or shrugged or both. Some left before it was over.
Indiana partisans in the crowd were probably expecting something like "Spiderman," with lots of characters flying around the hall and some cool special effects. What they got, instead, was "Death of a Salesman."
I wasn't sure what sort of plot twists to anticipate Saturday, given that IU and Ball State both debuted new coaching staffs. But I felt reasonably certain about one thing: I thought the Hoosiers would take the stage with gusto. I thought they would come out playing hard, playing hungry, ready to perform in such a manner as to merit applause.
I thought they would play that way for Wilson, coaching his first game, and anybody else who has shown faith in them. I thought they desperately wanted to shut up the critics -- prove the doubters and cynics and pundits wrong. I didn't know if they would play successfully, or even well, but I thought they would play all-out.
But when the teams took the field, I commented to a colleague in the Lucas Oil Stadium press box that while Ball State's Cardinals were clearly cranked for opening night, the Hoosiers looked like they were on the way to a dress-rehearsal.
I thought I was mostly kidding. But it ended up looking that way to Wilson, too.
"The really disappointing thing for me, which is totally my fault, is that I just didn't see, from the sideline and on the field, any energy," Wilson said Monday. "It was like we were at a golf match or something.
"We were a very lethargic team. So we'll work real hard, without being phony or being cheerleaders, on creating our own energy. We talk a lot about playing hard and playing smart, and at the same time it's a game where you should be having some fun. It's a passionate game, a game of energy and enthusiasm. And we didn't have it. And that starts with me."
It's admirable and appropriate for the head coach to take responsibility, but everybody involved in the production has to own up on this one. It's going to take all of them, working collectively, to effect the necessary changes. Maybe it starts with Wilson, but it sure doesn't end there.
Theater people will tell you that one of the toughest things to do is to successfully revamp a show after it has opened poorly. And that it often takes everybody pitching in. Producers, directors and actors confer. Maybe the second act gets shortened. Maybe some key dialogue is tweaked. Maybe a character is recast.
And sometimes good, creative and passionate people can transform a show with some initial flaws into a hit.
I think Wilson has very good people, on his staff and on his team. But even having great people involved, true talents, is no guarantee of immediate success.
Ever heard of a musical entitled, "What's Up?"
It was the first Broadway production for lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick "Fritz" Loewe. Its director and choreographer was George Balanchine. You can't get much better creative talent than that. But "What's Up" didn't make the grade.
Sometimes, the material just isn't up to snuff. And sometimes it takes time for talented people to hit the proper stride.
"What's Up" did not stop Lerner and Loewe from subsequently bequeathing "My Fair Lady" and "Camelot" upon a grateful populace.
The curtain just now went up, for the first time, on the Kevin Wilson era at IU. He and his staff deserve a fair shot at earning some curtain calls. Because what they're attempting to do, to my mind, goes well beyond even the difficult task of improving a Broadway show. They're trying to change the culture of a team, of a program, of a school, of an alumni base -- change the culture of all things IU -- regarding football.
They're trying to create winning Big Ten football, and to do so in Bloomington, Indiana.
That brings to mind how the song "New York, New York" concludes with a couplet speaking for all the dreamers who, for decades, have hit town to make it on Broadway: "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere."
Our opinion: New directions for IU worth pursuing, with care
September 7, 2011, last update: 9/7 @ 6:23 am
Universities are bricks and mortar -- actually mostly limestone and mortar at Indiana University -- with computers and test tubes and fat tomes in the library, sometimes now reduced to digits on discs.
But they are more than that, much more. They are organizations; webs of people with their own hierarchies, friendships and hatreds, hideouts and worker bees -- complex and vital organisms that breathe and move more or less in the same direction, each individual facing unique challenges while remaining part of the larger collective.
Organic creatures live and evolve, sloughing off dead cells, growing in new directions. So does a university -- either in a helter skelter of reaction to changed circumstance or with a plan -- one that focuses on the longer vision, but which also accounts for a changing world and streamlines the organization to allow it to adapt to changes that can't be predicted.
IU's New Academic Directions report, out since the spring and with action already on some of its recommendations -- the dissolution of the university-wide School of Continuing Studies is one -- is an attempt to do that.
University President Michael McRobbie calls it "one of the most important exercises ever carried out" at IU. He reminds us, too, of the university's vision: to provide "first rate educational opportunities and world-class research."
Implementation of many of the proposals in the report would radically change the face of the organism. The giant College of Arts and Sciences might morph into several smaller schools -- or not. Communications studies might become just that, rather than subject matter that's addressed by several schools or departments today.
Dead cells finally might be buried, while newborns might be nurtured to strength, all this in the labyrinth of university politics, personalities and protection of turf.
Nothing worth doing is easy, though. This must be done with care, certainly. But it is well worth doing.
Glass on IU football season-ticket sales, gameday traffic
By Dustin Dopirak
September 7, 2011, last update: 9/7 @ 9:55 am
Correction The Hoosiers' sideline is flipping to the east side of Memorial Stadium.
With a new coach at the helm of his football program, Indiana athletic director Fred Glass is expecting the best attendance in at least a decade.
Glass said Tuesday that the Hoosiers had already sold 21,058 season tickets, surpassing last year's season total of just over 20,000. With four days still to go before the season opener, they have already sold more season tickets than in any year since 2000 and Glass said its possible to pass the number they sold that season.
"Last year's overall attendance was the best it's been since 1992," Glass said. "So given the jumpstart we've had with season tickets, I'm optimistic that we'll have another great year with overall attendance."
Of course, that means even more people will be funneled into a traffic situation that was never good and promises to be even worse than usual.
Construction on the 45/46 bypass, which is being widened, will be an issue for travelers to Memorial Stadium throughout the season, Glass said.
"Traffic around the stadium is hard all the time," Glass said Tuesday. "If you go out there now, it's hard. That's just the nature of getting around Bloomington right now with the widening of the bypass. On game days, that construction is going to make gameday traffic a mess. It's going to be a mess here, and frankly, it's going to be a bit of a mess at (Interstate) 465 and (state route) 37. Whether you're in Bloomington or coming to Bloomington, the traditional routes of the Fort Wayne and Indianapolis folks are going to have some real challenges with traffic."
Glass said the athletic department has been meeting for months with officials and contractors from the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), local and state police, mayor Mark Kruzan and other city authorities to look for ways to address the issue. He said the department has posted alternative routes to Memorial Stadium on the department website and tried to change the traffic pattern to find ways of getting fans to and from Memorial Stadium as quickly as possible. They've even taken a luxury suite from the press box and made it a traffic command center for better coordination.
However, Glass said, there will be brutal traffic regardless, and the only way to avoid it is to arrive earlier than usual. He said that parking lots will open five hours before game time this season to encourage fans to come early and tailgate. Fifty additional portable toilets have added to that end, and there will be various other promotions to promote early arrival.
"I'm very encouraged by the creative alternative routes," Glass said. "But the two words are, 'Arrive early, arrive early, arrive early.' You won't avoid everything, but you'll avoid the worst of it. ... If you're going to come to Indiana football, there's going to be some waiting involved. I think it's going to be more fun to sit around and wait while you're tailgating with your friends and family or goofing around Bloomington than sitting on 37."
Other notes from Glass:
• Glass said Indiana has flipped the sidelines so the the Hoosiers' sideline is on the west side of Memorial Stadium in front of the student section as opposed to the alumni section. Recruits typically sit there, and the move was made in large part because new coach Kevin Wilson thought it pointless at best, counterproductive at worst to sit recruits on the same sideline as opposing coaches.
• Glass announced that Indiana made several cosmetic additions to the concourses of Memorial Stadium, adding more signage, graphics, and markers paying homage to legacy players.
• Glass said Knothole Park, the miniaturized football field beyond the south end zone, will remain. There will now be another smaller version for smaller children.
"Some of those kids were getting mowed down as the older kids were playing more aggressive games of two-hand touch," Glass said. "So we're going to have a kiddie section."