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A Muslim student at New Jersey’s Union County College has filed a federal lawsuit against her math professor and the college, claiming that she was discriminated against based on her religion.
According to the lawsuit, math professor Marsha Worrell singled out Maryam Naziri in class and said other students were “exceptional” enough to take a chapter test. After Naziri challenged Worrell on the claim, the professor allegedly harassed Naziri in class until she cried.
According to the lawsuit, Worrell then filed complaints with both Union County College’s affirmative action officer as well as the Elizabeth, New Jersey police department, alleging that Maryam’s behavior was a “terroristic threat.”
“According to Defendant Worrell, a dispute over a math test with a female student who wears a hijab constitutes terrorism,” Maryam’s lawyer, Tariq Hussain, said in the federal lawsuit, NJ.com reports. “Such an absurd and defamatory statement can only be motivated by Defendant Worrell’s Islamaophobic, xenophobic, and discriminatory beliefs.”
Maryam’s husband, Nisar Naziri, is also part of the suit, as he claims Worrell’s complaints could damage his security clearance. He previously served as a combat linguist in Afghanistan for the U.S. Army and later moved to the U.S. with his wife in 2014. For him, Worrell’s alleged comments have long-lasting repercussions on his family’s lives.
“The profound irony of this case is that Mr. Naziri risked his life assisting the U.S. military in combating terrorism in Afghanistan, eventually fleeing the war-torn and terrorism-plagued country with his wife Maryam Naziri, only to have Defendant Worrell allege that Ms. Naziri made ‘terroristic threats,’ simply because she wears a hijab,” the lawsuit’s brief claims.
The Elizabeth Police Department claims there’s no recorded complaint against Naziri, NJ.com reports. Worrell is not listed in the Union County College online directory, and the school did not confirm with NJ.com whether she was still teaching at the school. However, the college claimed in an official statement that the school “committed” to creating an environment “free of all forms of discrimination.”
“Consequently, all allegations of behavior alleging violations of this core principal are vigorously investigated,” said college spokesperson Jaime Segal, according to NJ.com.
Previously, Union County College was sued after a student alleged a business professor failed her for being Muslim.
Ana Valens is a reporter specializing in online queer communities, marginalized identities, and adult content creation. She is Daily Dot's Trans/Sex columnist. Her work has appeared at Vice, Vox, Truthout, Bitch Media, Kill Screen, Rolling Stone, and the Toast. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and spends her free time developing queer adult games.