At the University of California, Irvine the Muslim Student Union (MSU), a virulently anti-Semitic and anti-American student group, holds several programs which unabashedly support terrorist groups and unjustly denounce Israel, America, and the Western world. MSU events have featured speakers like Norman Finkelstein, Ward Churchill, Muhammad al-Asi and Amir Abdel Malik Ali, and have had titles such as "Hamas: the People's Choice" and "Israel: The 4th Reich."
On May 12, 2008 the Muslim Student Union invited Muhammad al-Asi to speak on the main part of the campus in front of the flag poles. Al-Asi has spoken at UC Irvine before, and his speeches are usually riddled with stereotypical tirades on Jews and unrepentant affirmations of terrorist acts on American and Israel.
Out of all the MSU’s speakers, al-Asi has the most lurid personal history. A former Air Force Officer, al-Asi became radicalized by the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and is an avid admirer of the late Ayatollah Khomeini. In 1983, he was removed from his position at the Islamic Center in Washington D.C. for being too radical, and since then, he preaches his hateful message in front of the very same mosque to passers-by. Al-Asi also makes regular trips to Iran to meet hard-line officials, and as reported by the Washington Post, is under constant surveillance from the United State’s government.
Al-Asi’s hateful message was on full display during this year’s hate week. With a speech peppered with pro-terrorist and anti-Semitic overtones, he didn’t disappoint his keffiyah wearing devotees of the Muslim Student Union. In referring to the fate of the Israeli state, al-Asi boasted about the increasing endangerment of the concentrated Jewish population in the Middle East, and the pent up aggression of their Arab neighbors:
"As the years go by you are going to feel more cornered in the nation state ghetto you constructed."
The invocation of “ghetto” is a common theme in al-Asi’s speeches. To the defrocked Imam, the state of Israel isn’t a prosperous and civilized nation founded by legal land purchases and predicated on international law, but rather a bastion for alien savages that ran rough shod over an otherwise pristine Middle East. According to al-Asi, modern Jewish culture is deviant and depraved, born from thousands of years of exile and the violent “ghetto life” they failed to learn from in Europe:
"Just like you didn't learn from exile, you didn't learn from ghetto life.
You left the ghettos of Europe, there were no ghettos to speak about in Muslim Countries. You left those ghettos and came in the fashion that you did, with all the bloodshed that went with it and still continues.
You came to the holy land, which you desecrated and blasphemed with every decision that you made and still are making and then you realize that you are in a territory of hostilities around you. These hostilities didn't come from nowhere, these hostilities are a reaction to all the misery and all the hostility that you brought with you."
Amir Abdel Malik Ali echoed similar overtones in his speech on Thursday, May 15. Invoking repetitive and hazy distinctions between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, he did however characterize Jews that are politically active in Republican politics as traitors “masquerading as right wingers.” Ali was unequivocally adamant about the destruction of Israel, but was more reserved in his attacks on America, calling for what he narrowly defined as the fall of “empire.”
“In order for people to live like human beings America must fall as an empire and America is coming down. When you put the Israeli flag up next to the American flag, what it means for many of us, you will fall just like that empire is going to fall.”
Ali, however, offered no condemnation for aggressive Islamic actors like Iran and Hezbollah, who seek to undemocratically spread their influence to sovereign nations. To Ali, they are just freedom fighters, and fears about a militant Islamic revival are instigated by western propaganda:
“Our non-Muslim friends they got you all thinking that this Islamic revival is something that you should fear. That's propaganda!”
To supplement the general theme of their speakers, the Muslim Student Union at UC Irvine erects a mock apartheid wall plastered with standard Jewish blood libel and hagiographic tributes to terror groups. This year, despite their murderous acts against Jews and their chartered mission to eliminate Israel, a whole section of the wall was devoted to praising the terror group Hamas for “leading the resistance against occupation” and humanitarian work in funding and implementing “relief programs, schools, orphanages, clinics, soup kitchens, and children’s programs.”
The MSU also plastered the wall with more overt and racist depictions of Jews. In a political cartoon they posted that looked as if it was ripped out of the Nazi-era publication Der Sturmer, Ariel Sharon was depicted with a stereotypical hooked-nose and over sized lips. The poster’s intention was to be a movie parody on Ridley’s Scott’s Hannibal, but it provided the dual purpose of characteristic blood libel by invoking the portmanteau Cannibal accompanied by a Star of David in the backdrop.
Although MSU events arguably fall within the bounds of "free speech," the right to free speech does not require the administration to be silent when MSU calls for the destruction of Israel and threatens or harasses students who support her.
Unfortunately, the administration has failed not only to speak out against speech that calls for genocidal actions against Jews and Israelis, but also to ensure the civil liberties of individuals on the UCI campus.
During the last day of events this quarter, on May 15th, a Jewish female’s civil rights were violated when she was threatened by members of the Muslim Student Union for videotaping Amir Abdel Malik-Ali’s evening lecture. According to a community member who witnessed the event, the female and her male companion were followed back to their car and surrounded by six male Muslim students. The witness then became a victim of intimidation when one of the students situated themselves on the hood of her car to photograph her vehicle identification (VIN) number. He then subsequently took photographs of her face and license plate. The UC Irvine Campus police officers on duty witnessed the entire event, but stood idly when the alleged crime occurred. When the community member called the watch commander later that night, he explained that the Muslim Student’s were just “getting back at the Jews.”
Also on May 15th, during the daytime events, males of the Muslim Student Union harassed a student journalist who was filming during a rally in which "anti-Israel" slogans were shouted. Once again, the UCIPD and administration opted for their "do nothing" policy and stood back idly while the student journalist was taunted and threatened with physical violence. One of the males of the MSU, a student named Yasser Ahmed who purportedly threw a cinderblock at an FBI vehicle during May 2007, said to the student journalist: "You wanna get jacked! We can go get jacked right now! C'mon Emanuel, we've learned a lot about you let's go! Let's go get jacked, Lets go get jacked!"
Police officers at the scene initially did not want to take down a statement following this incident. When a campus officer finally agreed to take a statement, he reported to the student journalist that there was nothing that they can do and that one of the Muslim males made an apology.
Although the university has the moral obligation to speak out against hateful speech directed at a portion of the student body, they have made it clear they are going to avoid commenting on the issue or ensuring a safe campus environment. At the very least, administrators need to uphold the rights of all students and make certain civil liberties are maintained rather than selectively enforcing regulations.
An independent task force investigation recently issued findings that clearly suggest anti-Semitism, anti-Americanism, and pro-terror speech is well documented at UC Irvine. The full report can be read here.