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Videos posted by UMBC student Hana Abdelshafy on TikTok targeted the LGBTQ+ community, speficially queer Muslims. Graphic by Madeline Arbutus.

UMBC community calls for action after UMBC student posts multiple queerphobic TikToks

Editor’s note: This article contains mention of hate speech directed at the LGBTQ+ community.

This is a developing story and has been updated to reflect new information.

After becoming aware of University of Maryland, Baltimore County student Hana (known by her TikTok handle @egyptihana) posting queerphobic TikToks, several people reported Hana to the UMBC administration and the Office of Equity and Inclusion. Instead of taking down the videos, Hana posted another TikTok in which she said that UMBC and God were on her side as she was getting accommodations on her final exams. Her TikTok account has since been deleted.

In these videos, Hana made various queerphobic statements, including that queer people are lower than animals and dogs and that queer Muslims “better watch out.” 

One student who preferred to remain anonymous (referred to hereafter as ‘Muslim UMBC student’) was concerned about the lack of action from UMBC and started a petition to push the university to hold Hana accountable. The petition, which now has over 1,800 signatures, states that “even something as small as a public apology” would be sufficient punishment “as many of [UMBC’s] students are feeling alienated and like it’s unsafe to attend their learning institution.”

“I’m honestly really impressed with the student body because, well aside from her, a lot of people have reached out with a lot of support,” said the Muslim UMBC student. “A lot of people have supported the petition. A lot of people have expressed their support for anyone on campus who’s struggling, including other Muslim students [and] heterosexual Muslim students as well.”

Since the Muslim UMBC student posted the petition, other UMBC students created an open letter to the university’s administration. Several organizations, including the Women’s Center, the Student Government Association and Initiatives for Identity, Inclusion and Belonging, posted statements standing in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community and queer Muslims in response to Hana’s TikToks. 

Because Hana was granted the same accommodations extended to all parties involved in a Title IX claim, her video stating that university administration supported her statements were incorrect. The university extended the same protections to the Muslim UMBC student who filed the complaint. Since becoming aware of this, the Muslim UMBC student posted an update on the petition explaining how Hana mislead the public. The Muslim UMBC student noted that they were leaving the petition up to “show the school just how many people are hurt as a result of Hana’s content and want action taken.”

The Muslim UMBC student explained that they were also one of many students harmed by Hana’s videos. “I can’t lie, I cried when I saw her videos. A lot,” said the Muslim UMBC student. “I contemplated everything in them a lot. I felt so disgusting and weighed down by something that’s not even in my control. I feel like I’ve reached a certain degree of self-acceptance. I can’t imagine [how this must feel] for people who are still in a space where they’re questioning their faith or questioning their identity.”

As a Muslim who has struggled to come to terms with their sexuality, the student explained that Hana’s TikToks took them back to a period where they hated themselves for their sexual orientation.

“This is making me feel alienated from my own faith. I refuse to let her take it away from me because I care more about my religion than about a girl posting TikToks on the Internet,” said the Muslim UMBC student. The Muslim UMBC student explained that they only want Hana to acknowledge the people she hurt. They further explained that, when the TikToks were still available, queer Muslims asked Hana to apologize for her words and the way that she said them. According to the Muslim UMBC student, queer Muslims know that the Quran indicates that acting upon non-heterosexual thoughts is a sin.

“This is common knowledge and no one’s unaware of this. And if she wanted to go out and say, ‘Hey, the Quran says this,’ no one would be angry at her because that’s what it says,” said the Muslim UMBC student. “The anger came in her dismissing [queer Muslims] right to exist and the struggle and indicating that it was a choice.”

Hana has since posted an apology on her now public Instagram account in which she apologized for her tone and how it impacted people. She told The Retriever that her videos were never intended to be spread beyond the Muslim community and that she is sorry for harming anyone from the LGBTQ+ community.

“I apologize for how I made people feel. My intention wasn’t to hurt anybody. If my words were too harsh, yes, I apologize,” said Hana.

However, Hana does not apologize for the religious beliefs behind her statements. Hana explained that her words were intended to be an educational tool to help LGBTQ+ Muslims with “their feelings.” She said the videos came as a response to other TikTokers stating that being part of the LGBTQ+ community and engaging in non-heterosexual sex is not a sin. To Hana, it was important to correct those statements and that is why she does not understand the need to apologize for the queerphobic sentiment in her videos.

“These words have been here for, what, 1400 years? The words haven’t changed. These aren’t my words. It’s not like I’m the one who’s saying it,” said Hana. “This is something that me and [queer Muslims] both believe so I don’t understand how they want me to retract those statements.”

While the Muslim UMBC student may be more understanding regarding the religious sentiment behind Hana’s TikToks, freshman dance major Eva McLaughlin was appalled seeing such bigotry from a fellow UMBC student. She explained that she applied to UMBC because of its diversity, naming the Women’s Center and the Pride Center as examples of the university’s acceptance of students with different identities.

“Just to hear a student at [this] school say those things, honestly, it was really shameful. Like, it was really shocking to hear,” said McLaughlin. “I never expected that someone at this school which is known for [its] diversity, to just come out and say all these things unprovoked like that. So I was really shocked.”

In a post responding to one of Hana’s TikToks, McLaughlin wrote “if I see you, it’s on sight.” This comment prompted Adelshafy to file a claim with OEI stating that McLaughlin threatened her. After a case manager contacted McLaughlin on Dec. 9, McLaughlin explained that the comment was not threatening physical violence. 

“I was just so mad about the videos,” said McLaughlin. “It was just so shocking to see. Usually, people are quiet about their homophobia, but she’s out there, just very proud that she’s against [the LGBTQ+ community].”

Hana has since closed the case against McLaughlin.

Currently, the Title IX case involving Hana is ongoing. OEI is still interviewing students that brought claims against Hana and more claims are still being filed. 

“We’ve received quite a number of complaints about this situation in a general way without being specific about who or where or how,” said Director of OEI Ariana Arnold. “So, each of those have to be evaluated separately and we want to make sure everyone feels like we’re being fair and impartial.”

Arnold stated that the case is complicated as it involves freedom of speech, freedom of religion and discriminatory language. As a public university, UMBC can not censor the speech of students, staff and faculty unless that speech is threatening, harassing or creates a hostile environment for students. Once the speech does, OEI or the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards can take action.

“There’s a question about whether any of this is hate speech if it’s a sincerely held religious belief,” said Arnold.

According to the American Council on Education, universities can discipline students for speech “that materially and substantially disrupts campus order or is so severe as to deprive other students of the benefits of their educational experience” even if that speech is posted on social media. However, Arnold said OEI is still determining whether Hana’s videos fulfill the legal requirements to prove that it affected students’ ability to learn. 

“All of those are legal standards set by the courts and they’re very high bars,” said Arnold. 

As OEI investigates further, Arnold encourages anyone affected by Hana’s videos to contact OEI. Claims can be made on their website and can be made anonymously.