Disturbing Viral Posts Twist Muslim NJ Student’s Tragic Death
The tragic death of a freshman at Montclair State University has been twisted in viral social media posts falsely claiming that the student was thrown out of a window by a group of Jewish classmates for supporting Palestine.
Abderrahmane “Abdu” Mefti, 18, from Wallington, died unexpectedly on Tuesday, Oct. 17, according to a statement from Dawn Meza Soufleris, vice president for student development and campus life.
"Abderrahmane was a vibrant and caring individual who touched the lives of everyone he met. His warm smile, unwavering kindness was infectious, leaving a lasting impression on all who had the privilege of knowing him," a GoFundMe for his family's funeral expenses said.
An "extensive" investigation including surveillance video, eyewitness reports, and statements from Mefti's friends found that he died alone, according to Soufleris.
"There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever of any foul play or criminal actions. The University Police have shared all the information with the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office," Soufleris said. New Jersey 101.5 has reached out to the PCPO for information.
As his family grieved, Mefti's death was quickly twisted on social media.
Concerns of hate crimes amid Israel-Hamas conflict
The ongoing war between Israel and Hamas has raised concerns that higher tensions could lead to an increase in hate crimes against Jewish and Muslim populations in the United States.
A 6-year-old Muslim boy was stabbed to death by his family's landlord in the Chicago suburbs earlier this month. Law enforcement said the 71-year-old man was incensed about the situation in the Middle East and targeted the boy and his mother for being Muslim, the Associated Press reported.
Social media posts claim NJ student's death was murder
Accounts began claiming on TikTok and X, formerly Twitter, that Mefti had been thrown from a sixth-story window to his death by a group of Jewish students at Montclair State University for defending Palestine.
It's not clear where the false claims about Mefti's death originated.
Some posts said he was killed for being Palestinian. Mefti's family is Algerian, according to MSU spokesperson Elyse Toribio Fernandez. Other posts wrongly stated that he was 19 years old, while others said his name was Abdul.
TikTok user its_danzy, who has 2.3 million followers, posted a video on Oct. 20 further spreading the misinformation.
"Some people have come out and said he was thrown off the sixth-floor window by a group of Zionists because he was supporting Palestine," the TikTok creator said.
The video has 59,500 likes and over 4,600 shares as of Monday afternoon.
Islamic groups push back on viral social media posts
Three Islamic groups in New Jersey have released statements on Mefti's death. All three said there was no evidence of foul play.
The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said that its office was investigating but that there was no available evidence that suggested criminal conduct.
"We share his family and community's grief and ask Allah to forgive Abderrahmane, elevate his ranks, multiply his good deeds, and to fill his grave with divine light and to shower his family with patience," CAIR-NJ said.
"We want to be clear: there is no substantial evidence, nor suspicion that implicates other individuals in this heartbreaking incident. Rigorous investigations and clear evidence have yielded no indication of criminal attack or foul play," they said.
False claims result in backlash for Montclair State University
At least five people have review-bombed Montclair State University on ratemyprofessors.com, which is typically used by students to review their professors so other students have more information when choosing classes.
The reviews repeated misinformation and misspelled the names of the college and Mefti and misidentified him as a Palestinian.
"A group of Jewish students of Montclaire University threw Abdul Rahman Mufti, a palestinian young man from the six floor. The university is covering it up as a suicide. Racists. Bigots. Who’d trust a criminal university?" one post said.
"A specific group of their Jewish students chose to overthrow and and kill an innocent Palestinian student," another post said.
30 'poorest' neighborhoods in NJ
Gallery Credit: New Jersey 101.5
UPDATE 2023: All the NJ stores that sell legal weed
Gallery Credit: Erin Vogt, Eric Scott