Middle East studies in the News
Fatal Binghamton University Stabbing of Professor Leaves Trail of Unanswered Questions [on Richard Antoun]
by Doug Schneider
VESTAL -- The fatal stabbing Friday of longtime http://www2.binghamton.edu/">Binghamton University anthropology professor http://anthro.binghamton.edu/AntounR.html ">Richard T. Antoun has left the community with more questions than answers, again.
Antoun, 77, of Vestal, died at http://www.uhs.net/wilson/">Wilson Regional Medical Center in Johnson City, where he was rushed following an attack against him inside BU's http://www.binghamton.edu/maps/uppermiddle.html">Science 1 building..
Campus police have a male suspect in custody, but had not yet charged him.
According to police radio transmissions, Antoun was stabbed four times with a 6-inch kitchen blade while he was inside a campus office.
Professors who were in the building at the time said http://research.binghamton.edu/discovere/researchers/Scholar_helps_define_fundamentalism.shtml">Antoun was stabbed by a graduate student. However, the university would not confirm the name of the suspect or release a possible motive.
University officials said there was no danger to students or others on the Vestal campus, but urged the community Friday afternoon to stay clear of the Science I building, which was to remain closed until noon Saturday. At 2:20 p.m. Friday, many students who registered their cell phones with the university received a text that read: "At 1:41 p.m., University Police responded for a reported stabbing in S-I. Suspect in custody. Police investigating. Stay clear of Science I."
It was unclear Friday night when the suspect would be formally charged. Vestal Supervisor Peter Andreasen said an arraignment would not necessarily have to take place in Vestal, because two state agencies -- the state police and University Police -- are involved.
The attack comes nearly eight months to the day 13 people were massacred by a single gunman at the American Civic Association in Binghamton. It also extended BU's string of misfortune. In the past year and a half, the university has endured the near-death beating of one of its students and the flight to Serbia of one of the alleged assailants -- former BU basketball player Miladin Kovacevic; a sexual harassment suit brought by one of its employees; the legal and off-the-court troubles that dismantled the basketball team; and an ongoing SUNY investigation. Unanswered questions continue to swirl around all of those events.
DeFleur condemns attack
Devin Sheppard, a BU student, said she heard from students who were in the Science Building that campus police had tackled the assailant.
"The police asked the grad student, 'Did you just stab him?' and he said yes," Sheppard said.
Antoun was rushed from the building on a stretcher and placed in a Harpur's Ferry ambulance that was parked on a walkway outside the building.
BU President Lois DeFleur condemned the slaying as "an act of senseless violence."
She said counselors will be available throughout the weekend by calling 777-2393.
A 10-second moment of silence was observed before the BU-Bucknell University basketball game Friday.
Several students around the Science building Friday afternoon said they weren't certain what had happened, nor did they know why the hallway near Antoun's office had been closed off with yellow police tape. Several said they had not registered with the university to receive text messages notifying them of emergencies.
Some classes continued to take place during the afternoon inside the building, which is on the eastern edge of the BU quadrangle, not far from the Bartle library. There are no classrooms in the section of the building where the stabbing occurred.
"It's kind of scary because it's so close," said Jacqui Boroda, 21, a BU senior. She works at Jazzmans, a coffee house in BU's Academic Building B, which is next to Science I. She said her boss saw the police heading into the building with guns drawn.
Professors and students said the mood in the building was one of shock and fear.
"It's scary as hell," said Peter Knuepfer, an associate professor of geological sciences who works in Science I. "It's another one of those things like the downtown shooting (at the American Civic Association).
"You think it happens somewhere else, but it happens here, too."
Antoun, who lived on Murray Hill Road in Vestal, is a published author who has written several books. He published the book http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Fundamentalism-Richard-Antoun/dp/0759100063">Understanding Fundamentalism: Christian, Islamic, and Jewish Movements.
A BU biography of Antoun shows he received a doctorate from Harvard in 1963 and joined the BU faculty in 1976. It goes on to describe him as an emeritus professor, a "sociocultural anthropologist who has conducted research among peasants in Jordan, urbanites in Lebanon, peasant-farmers in Iran, and migrants in Texas and Greece.
His scholarly interests centered on comparative religion and symbolic systems, the social organization of tradition in Islamic law and ethics, the sociology of dispute with respect to tribal law in the Middle East, local-level politics, and the impact of transnational migration on education, work, and cultural change."
He is survived by his wife Rosalyn and a son.
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