Professor Nicholas Damask was assaulted for how he taught students about Islam.
Misbar's investigation finds that Professor Nicholas Damask, who teaches political science at Scottsdale Community College in Arizona, was initially chastised by the college when he was accused of making Islamaphobic comments in class and including test questions that conflated terrorism with Islam.
One of his Muslim students objected to the questions and wrote to Damask asking for an apology. Damask refused, and the student posted the offending questions on social media. Scottsdale Community College President Chris Hanes posted that, “SCC administration has addressed with the instructor the offensive nature of the quiz questions and their contradiction to the college’s values. The instructor will be apologizing to the student shortly, and the student will receive credit for the three questions. The questions will be permanently removed from any future tests.”
Damask contacted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, who wrote a letter to President Haines defending his right to free speech in the classroom. Following the letter, on May 31, 2020, Chancellor Steven R. Gonzales said in a statement: “I apologize, personally, and on behalf of the Maricopa Community Colleges, for the uneven manner in which this was handled and for our lack of full consideration for our professor’s right of academic freedom. To avoid rushing to judgment a second time, I am announcing the immediate independent investigation of the facts related to his situation.”
However, on June 3, 2020, the Arizona chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations announced that they filed a First Amendment lawsuit against Scottsdale Community College. CAIR-Arizona Civil Rights Director Ahmed Soussi said, “The First Amendment forbids public schools from condemning religion, declaring one negative interpretation of a religion to be the only true interpretation, and then punishing students who refuse to agree with such bigotry. In addition to violating the Constitution, Professor Nicholas Damask put the safety of Muslim students at risk by teaching that the only true and acceptable interpretation of Islam gives all Muslims a ‘mandate’ to kill anyone else.”
Since Damask was only chastised and then apologized to, it does not constitute an assault.