After Shakeel Khan, 50, was shot in Johnson City on Saturday night, multicultural student groups came together to host an emergency meeting.
At least 70 students from various organizations, including Decol A, the Muslim Student Association (MSA), College Progressives, SHADES and Hindu Student Council, gathered at Jazzman’s on Wednesday for the open discussion, which centered around Muslim solidarity. The meeting took place after Khan, who was Muslim, was murdered by a masked shooter outside his restaurant, Halal Bites on Riverside Drive, while closing up. The shooter has yet to be identified, but some are concerned Khan’s death could be a hate crime.
Multiple community groups, including the Islamic Organization of the Southern Tier (IOST), have cautioned Muslim residents and people of color to be cautious while the shooter remains at large.
“IOST Board members have been in touch with the Johnson City Police chief who has assured them that his agents are investigating the matter and that he has also sought assistance of the state police,” IOST wrote in a statement. “In addition, he asked the officers to patrol the Masjid and the other Muslim establishments in the area. As the perpetrator has not been arrested as [of] yet, we ask the community members to be extra vigilant around their houses and report any unusual activity to the police immediately.”
IOST also set up a GoFundMe for Khan’s wife and three children.
However, Binghamton University has not released a statement about the shooting, and in an effort to ensure students knew about the incident, Decol A, a student group that aims to serve as BU’s Asian American social justice organization, hosted Wednesday’s discussion.
At the event, several people, including Dheiva Moorthy, president of Decol A and a freshman double-majoring in environmental studies and sociology, said she was concerned by the lack of action from BU.
“Binghamton University hasn’t put out an official statement regarding safety for students as of now, especially considering the fact that the shooter was not caught, so he’s literally still out there,” Moorthy said. “The fact that there was no B-Alert; that’s a problem. The fact that students weren’t notified immediately is a problem. The fact that Harvey Stenger hasn’t said anything is a problem.”
Noah Ahmed, secretary and vice president of public relations for Decol A and a freshman majoring in biology, said that the meeting was meant to emphasize the importance of student safety.
“The meeting today was in response to not only someone being murdered but by the appalling lack of response from the University to address this,” Ahmed said. “Student safety should be a priority in situations like this, but clearly, due to this lack of a response, it’s clear that Binghamton can and needs to do more.”
Students at the discussion brainstormed ways to help students at risk feel more safe, such as expanding the Safe Ride system and sending out a letter to BU President Harvey Stenger to ask about the lack of a notification. Alina Mufti, vice president of Decol A and a freshman majoring in biomedical engineering, said even though it wasn’t a BU student who was killed, the situation was still closely connected to campus.
“What happened last Saturday was a hate crime, plain and simple,” Mufti said. “It was a targeted murder of a Muslim man who owned a restaurant that our own Binghamton students frequent. And this University’s administration has done nothing. There is a murderer on the loose. His hate is targeted and dangerous, and yet, there has been no B-Alert. There has been no official statement. There has been no added security or guarantee of safety for the students on this campus.”
Many students noted that Halal Bites is located roughly a mile from BU’s Health Sciences Campus. Sienna Merrill, a freshman double-majoring in Arabic and linguistics and an MSA intern, said she felt disappointed by the University’s lack of response.
“As a Binghamton local, in light of the 10-year anniversary of the American Civic Association shooting, I am appalled at the lack of response from the University,” Merrill said. “This is a hate crime. It occurred in an area where a lot of Muslim and Desis live, whether students or local. It is a restaurant where many students eat and it is right near the new Pharmacy School. Yet, no one has been informed of anything.”