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Hussam has been a lifelong human rights activist who is passionate about promoting democratic societies, in the US and worldwide, in which all people, including immigrants, workers, minorities, and the poor enjoy freedom, justice, economic justice, respect, and equality. Mr. Ayloush frequently lectures on Islam, media relations, civil rights, hate crimes and international affairs. He has consistently appeared in local, national, and international media. Full biography at: http://hussamayloush.blogspot.com/2006/08/biography-of-hussam-ayloush.html

Friday, February 19, 2010

Islamic group defends student protest (Daily Pilot)

District attorney should drop charges against 11 students because the incident took place on campus, says CAIR.

A pro-Islamic group is urging UC Irvine to drop disciplinary actions against a group of students who were arrested after protesting the Israeli ambassador’s presence on campus by intermittently interrupting him during a speech last week.

In all, 11 students, many of whom yelled and screamed in protest, were detained and cited by campus police for causing a ruckus during Ambassador Michael Oren’s speech. Their tones at times reached fever pitch, according to scenes from the event that were captured in a video posted on YouTube.

Oren was trying to speak about diplomatic relations between Israel and the United States, but was interrupted so often that he had a hard time delivering his message, UCI officials said.

The matter has been forwarded to the Orange County district attorney for possible criminal prosecution, but a decision won’t be made until later this week because the office has not yet received the complaint, said Susan Schroeder, spokeswoman for the D.A.’s office.

But the D.A.’s office should drop the charges because the incident occurred on campus, said the Anaheim office of a pro-Islamic group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

“We feel this is a campus event. It was noncriminal, nonviolent and nonthreatening,” said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of CAIR’s Greater Los Angeles Area office. “Off-campus police should not be involved in such matters. The D.A.’s office shouldn’t be involved in such matters. It was just a bunch of students who spoke out at a student event.”

If the campus decides to pursue disciplinary action, then it would only be perceived as “selective enforcement,” Ayloush said, adding that the campus probably does not want to be viewed in such a light.

“We strongly see the protest as a matter of free speech, regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees,” he said. “Students complain all the time, they interrupt all the time, or they boo people all the time. This is nothing new. People have yelled to me, ‘Go home, you terrorist,’ and I take it. I don’t complain.”

UCI spokeswoman Cathy Lawhon said the process of disciplinary action has already begun and that the university will treat the case “just as it would with any student who faces university discipline.”

She said the students could face disciplinary consequences ranging from a simple warning to a suspension to all-out expulsion. She did not give a timeline on when a decision would be made.

This is not the first time that the Muslim Student Union or a pro-Palestinian group have stirred the pot at UCI as it pertains to Israel-Palestinian relations abroad.

The same can be said of pro-Israeli groups, including the Zionist Organization of America. Demonstrations by both factions have become quite common on campus.

At one point a few years ago, the pro-Palestinian groups during one of its demonstrations compared the plight of the Palestinians to the Holocaust, a view they announced on the back of T-shirts sold at the event.

Jewish students took offense to the comparison.

Eventually, the Zionist Organization of America complained to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, calling the atmosphere at UCI campus “anti-Semitic.” It cast partial blame at the university for standing by and not doing anything about what it viewed as a “hostile environment.”

Ultimately, investigations stemming from complaints in 2004 and 2007 were conducted by the Office of Civil Rights, and after three years of “extensive investigation,” it was determined that there was no basis to back up ZOA’s claims, according to Lawhon...

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