Sarabi Eventide is used to people staring at her, but the 20-year-old New York University (NYU) student was completely taken aback one afternoon last September when a man she did not know approached her on the street as she was walking to class.
"Happy holidays," the man said to her, Eventide recalled in an interview with NBC News. Puzzled, she kept walking.
"Yeah, happy holidays," the man, who Eventide said was white and older than her, said again. "It's 9/11."
Eventide is an observant Muslim and wears a hijab. She said she knew that she was being harassed because of her appearance and because it was the anniversary of the Sept.11, 2001, attacks.
“I was just speechless,” Eventide told NBC News. “I still think about that day.”
Juan Calero, a 21-year-old NYU student, told NBC News that he has also had anti-Muslim and anti-Arab epithets directed at him. Calero said that last month, while walking on First Avenue, an older, white man called him a terrorist and told him to leave the country. Calero remembers crying after the incident.
“We want students to know that we are here for them."
Calero is not Muslim, but is often mistaken as one because of his beard and curly hair, he said. According to Calero, this is the fourth time he has experienced this type of harassment in his life. His and Eventide's experiences aren't unique. According to 2014 hate crime statistics from the FBI, Muslims face the second-most hate crimes because of their religion, with 16.3 percent of anti-religion hate crimes being anti-Islam.
Both Eventide and Calero sought support at the the Islamic Center at NYU, which provides social services and a safe space for members of the Muslim community.
After what the Islamic Center at NYU identified as "an increase in anti-Muslim sentiment and harassment," they sent an email to members of their listserv on Dec. 3 and obtained by NBC News announcing that they were partnering with the school's Office of Public Safety to ensure that all students felt safe and supported.
Students who had experienced anti-Muslim harassment were asked to fill out an online form where they could describe their experiences — where, when, and what exactly happened — and critique the university’s existing safety programs. According to the NYU public safety website, students that are the victims of crimes, including harassment and violence, can receive help filing police reports and contacting law enforcement agencies.
NYU also offers students “Safe Rides,” a shared ride service that transports students to and from NYU buildings between the hours of midnight and 6:30 a.m.
Students who have been harassed are also being encouraged to speak to staff at the Islamic Center, which has a licensed clinical psychologist on staff and can refer students to counseling services.
Amira Shouman, the program coordinator at the Islamic Center, told NBC News that the purpose of gathering these stories is to enhance existing support services for students and develop new ones.
“We want to make sure that we are being proactive,” Shouman said. “We want to be prepared to meet the needs of the students.”
She added, “We want students to know that we are here for them."
Correction: An earlier version of this article listed Ms. Eventide's first name as "Sarah." Her name is Sarabi.