Maha Nassar was offered a job as the new Middle Eastern history professor but, to the disappointment of history department chairman Richard Drake, she turned the job down in mid-January, citing prejudice against her Muslim faith in the Missoula community as her reason.

“There are always multiple factors at play when making such a major decision,” Nassar wrote in an e-mail to the Kaimin. “But the strong anti-Muslim sentiment expressed by some members of the Missoula community made the thought of living alone as a Muslim in Missoula untenable.

“I was also disappointed that the administration did not speak out publicly against these anti-Muslim sentiments.”

After UM offered Nassar a job, her husband, Scott Lucas, who teaches at the University of Arizona, also needed a job if they were to move to Missoula. He holds a doctorate from the University of Chicago in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. The University tried to create a position for him in the liberal studies department under an occasionally used practice called “spousal accommodation.”

The history department’s attempt to get UM to create a job for Lucas, 34, under spousal accommodation sparked a controversy that ultimately led to the couple’s decision not to make the move to Missoula.

After an article concerning the hiring appeared in the Missoulian, Drake said he received three phone calls from people saying “essentially that we shouldn’t bring Muslims here.”

“The bigotry against Muslim people is palpable in the university world based on the experience I’ve seen here,” Drake said. “And that bigotry needs to be exposed and opposed.” (MORE)


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