The University of Southern Maine is investigating an anti-Muslim statement that was written on a poster in Luther Bonney Hall on the Portland campus.

The statement, written on a poster that advises students what to do in case there’s an “active shooter” on campus, said “Kill the muslin,” misspelling the word Muslim.

USM President Glenn Cummings wrote in an email sent Wednesday to the USM community that the “disgraceful” statement was written sometime Tuesday evening.

“I cannot begin to tell you how this strikes at the heart of everything we are trying to accomplish here as a place where everyone feels welcome and safe,” Cummings wrote. “I am personally sickened by this and apologize to our many Muslim students whose presence on our campus and contributions to our university I could not value more. We do not know who the perpetrator is, but are making every effort to find out and take action to the full extent of USM policies and Maine law. I expect that anyone who can furnish any information on the incident will come forward and do so.”

Farkhunda Jamal, 24, a USM junior and Muslim from Westbrook, said she was disheartened but not surprised by the anti-Muslim sentiment.

“I don’t feel personally threatened, but it’s scary to think what might happen next,” said Jamal, who immigrated to the United States from Afghanistan when she was 6.

It was the second instance of anti-Muslim graffiti at USM this academic year.

In November, USM officials reported that the Latin phrase “Deus Vult” or “God Wills It” had been written on a desk and a wall at the Woodbury Campus Center, according to student leaders. The phrase was used as a rallying cry for Christians during the Crusades in medieval times, and more recently has been adopted by the alt-right white nationalist political movement as an anti-Muslim insult. Cummings and others condemned the graffiti and campus police said they were investigating the incident as a hate crime.

USM spokesman Robert Stein said the university found out which student was responsible for the November incident and his case went through the university code of conduct process. Stein said he couldn’t reveal the outcome because of student privacy laws.

“This is not the first incident of such behavior on our campus this year,” Cummings wrote in the email sent Wednesday. “I truly wish I could assure you it will be the last. But while we can not control the behavior of every single person who finds their way onto our campus, I can assure you our approach is that even one incident is too many and will not be tolerated.”

Hamdia Ahmed, a USM student and advocate for the Muslim and immigrant communities, wrote on her Facebook page Wednesday that the statement is a “hate crime.”

“I am completely disgusted by this,” Ahmed wrote.

In February, protests broke out on campus after state Rep. Larry Lockman was invited by a conservative student group to speak about immigration. Lockman gave a speech, drawing both supporters and opponents, criticizing refugees in Maine, saying they were using public funds that should be reserved for citizens, and posed a threat to the United States.

USM invited students or staff who wished to discuss the incident with school officials to come to the Portland, Lewiston and Gorham campuses on Wednesday or Thursday, where university staff members would be available.

Muna Adan, 19, a USM sophomore, said since President Trump was elected, she has noticed that people are bolder about saying negative things about Muslims.

“It’s pretty disappointing that people feel that way, but no, I am not surprised,” said Adan, who is Muslim.

Trump made criticism of Muslim immigration a theme of his presidential campaign, and since taking office, his proposed travel ban, which targets travelers from several predominantly Muslim countries has attracted widespread criticism and protests. So far, federal courts have blocked the travel bans from going into effect.

Jamal said she can’t prove that Trump’s presidency has had a direct effect on how Americans view the Muslim community, but she’s noticed more anti-Muslim statements since he’s been elected.

“People think, ‘If the president is allowed to say these things, then I can say them too,’” Jamal said.

Stein said the investigation into the incident has just begun, so the motivation behind it is unknown.

“Who knows what motivates people?” Stein said. “The national climate has not helped.”

Joe Lawlor can be reached at 791-6376 or at:

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