Professor at Binghamton University Murdered by Islamist Grad Student

VESTAL -- Abdulsalam Al-Zahrani has been charged with second-degree murder in the stabbing death of Binghamton University Professor Richard T. Antoun.


Al-Zahrani was taken to the Broome County Jail at 1:30 a.m. Saturday, said Broome County Sheriff's Sgt. Paul Carlson. He arraigned in Vestal Town Court Saturday morning. No bail was set.

Al-Zahrani, of Main Street, Binghamton, was charged by Binghamton University Police. Al-Zahrani was a cultural anthropology student working on his dissertation, according to the university Web site.

The fatal stabbing Friday of the longtime Binghamton University anthropology professor Antoun has left the community with more questions than answers, again.

Antoun, 77, of Vestal, died at Wilson Regional Medical Center in Johnson City, where he was rushed following an attack against him inside BU’s Science I building.

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 Antoun was stabbed by a graduate student. However, the university would not confirm the name of the suspect nor 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.”

“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 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 western 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, was the author of several books, most notably “Understanding Fundamentalism: Christian, Islamic, and Jewish Movements.”

A BU biography of Antoun shows he received a doctorate from Harvard in 1963 and joined the Binghamton faculty in 1976. It describes 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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