Hundreds unite in Bloomington, promise more dialogue after Muslim woman is attacked

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (Oct. 24, 2015)-- Several hundred Hoosiers rallied in Bloomington Saturday to raise awareness about Islamophobia, or hatred toward Muslims. 

The rally comes after former Indiana University student Triceton Bickford, 19, is accused of attacking a Muslim woman at a Bloomington cafe because of her religion. 

“This may have been one incident, but again this is just one symptom," Islamic Center of Bloomington's Hemayatullah Shahrani said. "I think there are significant underlying causes for these types of things and unfortunately these kinds of incidents are not uncommon.” 

The group marched down Kirkwood Ave. in Bloomington Saturday afternoon and gathered at the Monroe County Courthouse to hear several community leaders address the recent attack. 

"We have failed in not teaching our students the very basic fact of being tolerant and being understanding," Indiana University Anthropology Professor Nazif Shahrani said. “We don’t think he is truly the person who should be blamed for everything. He is a product of his community. He is a product of this educational system.

Indiana University graduate students Amanda Lanzillo and Denisha Jashari organized the event. 

"We’re really grateful members of the Muslim community in Bloomington came out here today and shared with us what they would like to see changed," Jashari said. 

Much of the conversation focused on educating the public about Islam. 

Fariha Hossain, Co-President of the IU Muslim Student Association, said she held a, "Meet a Muslim" day on campus this week. 

"We also have to work ourselves to make sure the people around us know who we are," Hossain said. "(The attack) was sort of a reminder we have to be careful and not everyone in the world is as great as the person next door." 

Hemayatullah Shahrani agrees education is key and believes the teaching needs to start in schools.

"Whether it's orientation at IU or within high schools, to have someone come in talk about Islamophobia... to explain to them that these kinds of things are hateful things and its often based on ignorance, prejudices and misinformation." 

Bickford has pleaded not guilty all charges in the attack. The FBI is investigating it as a possible hate crime, while his attorney said Friday she would fight those assertions.