Student Tasering Shocks US Muslims


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Student Tasering Shocks US Muslims
By Sahar Kassaimah, IOL Correspondent

WASHINGTON — The repeated stunning of an American Muslim student at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) with taser gun by the UCLA police has sent shockwaves across the Muslim community, particularly students.
"Several of the UCLA’s Muslim Student Association members contacted CAIR after the incident because they were concerned about their public safety," Hussam Ayloush, CAIR Southern California’s Executive Director, told

"The images were very painful and disturbing to watch and the incident shook UCLA students’ sense of security."

Mostafa Tabatabainejad, an American Muslim student of Iranian background, was in the Powell Library CLICC computer lab at 11:30 p.m. last Tuesday when Community Service Officers (CSOs) asked him to leave because he failed to show his identification card during a random check.

When he did not leave the library immediately, the CSOs - UCLA students hired by UC Police Department to aide in security and service activities - returned back minutes later along with police officers to escort him out.

As the student began to walk toward the door with his backpack, an officer approached him and grabbed his arm, at which point the student told the officer to let him go. A second officer then approached the student as well.

When Tabatabainejad began to yell "get off me," the officers shot him with a taser for the first time, causing him to fall to the floor and cry out in pain.

Excessive Force

Although the handcuffed student eventually agreed to be escorted out of the library and even after he told them he had a medical condition, the UCPD officers repeatedly tasered him before taking him into custody.

Bystanders repeatedly asked the police officers to stop, and at one point officers ordered all of them to stand back and threatened to use a taser on anyone who got too close.

Laila Gordy, a fourth-year economics student and one of the eye-witnesses, said that she was threatened to be tasered when she asked one of the officers about his name and badge number.

The Los Angeles Times said Terrence Duren, an 18-year veteran of the UCLA Police Department, tasered Tabatabainejad five times.

A video shot from a student’s camera phone captured the incident, which has been circulating the Internet, causing an outrage on college campuses across the country.

The incident was also broadcast on the main national TV channels.

"It is hard to see the justification for repeatedly using pain-inducing weapons on a person who was apparently not a threat to any officer or student," said CAIR's Ayloush.

"The video was disturbing, the force used against Mostafa seemed excessive, and the community needs some answers."

Independent Review

The Muslim community is pressing for an independent investigation of the issue to determine whether the student's civil rights were violated and whether he was targeted based on religious or ethnic grounds.

"Something went wrong that day, when Mostafa was tasered multiple times, although it did not appear from the video that he was violent or posed a threat," said Ayloush.

"We call on state and national authorities, including the FBI, to launch an independent investigation of this disturbing incident.

"Given the circumstances involved, only an outside, independent probe will ensure that the civil rights aspects of this case are being taken seriously and will be addressed in an impartial manner," said the Muslim activist.

"It is crucial that the incident be reviewed by an impartial source to see what, if any, of Mostafa’s civil rights were violated and whether guidelines on the use of Taser guns by campus police need to be revisited," stressed the Muslim activist.

Tabatabainejad was captured yelling: "Here's your Patriot Act, here's your ….. abuse of power."

A May 2004 report released by the US Senate Office Of Research concluded that the Arab Americans and the Muslim minority in the United States have taken the brunt of the Patriot Act and other federal powers applied in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

American Muslims, estimated at between five and seven millions, believe that in the aftermath of 9/11, the administration increasingly applied heavy-handed methods, which in turn, stripped Muslims of their civil rights and made them feel like suspects.

Yet, the Muslim community prefers to wait for the investigations’ results to find out whether Tabatabainejad was targeted based on his race or ethnicity.

"We need to reserve our judgment until the results of an independent investigation are made available to the public," said Ayloush.

"The Muslim community supports its law enforcement and works closely with various local law enforcement agencies to ensure our towns and communities are safe for everyone.

"At the same time, we also want to ensure that Americans’ civil rights are not trampled on."