(PHILADELPHIA, PA, 8/1/23) – The following statement is released on behalf of The Philadelphia Chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Philadelphia) and ACLU-Delaware; in response to a statement posted on the University of Delaware (UD) website regarding the unlawful arrest of Christina School District graduate Mohammed Sanogo by the UD Police Department following the June 15 graduation ceremony at the UD Newark Campus.
While we welcome the Delaware Attorney General’s decision to dismiss the charges against Mohammed Sanogo, the statement issued by UD on July 27 constitutes a missed opportunity for transparency and further accountability.
The written statement and the edited videos published on the UD website only serves to mislead the public about the true incidents on that night and misconstrues the Sanogo family’s stance regarding any admission of responsibility. We draw attention to the following statements that will help broader communities to develop a full understanding of this incident.
In a statement, Misty Seemans, Esq., from Delaware Public Defender’s Office who represented the family in criminal proceedings, noted, “We are appreciative that the Delaware Department of Justice did the right thing here and dismissed these charges. Mohammed is an extraordinary young man with a demonstrated stellar academic and volunteer record. More than 40 people wrote character letters on his behalf, detailing what an intelligent, thoughtful and kind person Mohammed is. Our thanks also go to the community who supported Mohammed during this tough time. We received letters and additional information describing his summer volunteering cleaning a school building in Africa, helping pay for a friend’s religious pilgrimage, and volunteering at blood drives. At this time, he looks forward to starting college in the fall.”
In a statement provided to the Newark Post, Dr. Naveed Baqir, a Christina School District Board member, said, “The carefully crafted and edited video released by UDPD has led to more questions than it answers. There is clearly someone speeding through the parking lot with someone hanging out of the window at some point, but it was neither Mohammad nor his car. The edited video shows dishonesty of UD to piece together an unrelated party’s reckless actions as a reason behind the decision to arrest Mohammad.”
Timothy Welbeck, Esq. Civil Rights Attorney for CAIR-Philadelphia said, “We call on UD Police to agree to a process of true accountability and communication with interested parties, including the Christina School District who has underlined they are seriously disturbed by the way their graduate was treated on the night of his graduation. It is crucial that the UD Police learn from their mistakes. This requires acknowledging harm done to an upstanding student such as Mohammed.”
“We need to take this incident very seriously,” said Shannon Griffin, Senior Policy Advisor at the ACLU of Delaware, “The University of Delaware has been allowed to really operate as they have for decades, pretty much unchallenged at least in any kind of serious way that would cause them to make substantial improvement. It is our responsibility to challenge the over-criminalization of learning environments that only works to fuel the school-to-prison pipeline, and call out these blatant instances of implicit bias that disproportionately impact Black and brown students causing them to experience harsher discipline than their white counterparts.”
CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.
La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.
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CONTACT: CAIR-Philadelphia Executive Director Ahmet Selim Tekelioglu, PhD; 617-401-5397 (mobile), firstname.lastname@example.org.