Several U.S.Muslim Brotherhood organizations have defended the 11 students who were arrested Monday night for disrupting the speech of the Israeli Ambassador to the United States at the University of California at Irvine (UCI). For example, the Muslim Public Affair Council (MPAC) has sent a letter to UC and UCI officials calling for an investigation into the arrests:
Today, the Muslim Public Affairs Council sent a letter to UC Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake and UCI School of Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky calling for an investigation into the arrest of 11 students who protested during a speech given by Israel’s Ambassador to U.S., Michael Oren, on Monday. UC Irvine police arrested the students after they stood up during Oren’s speech and individually condemned Israel’s practice of collective punishment towards Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.After individually making their comment, each student then moved to leave the room and allow Oren to continue his speech. Whether or not one agrees with the students’ tactics for expressing their opinions during this event, all students should be free to exercise their free speech without being subjected to arrest, intimidation, and even death threats. “These students had the courage and conscience to stand up against aggression, using peaceful means,” said MPAC Executive Director Salam Al-Marayati. “We cannot allow our educational institutions to be used as a platform to threaten and discourage students who choose to practice their First Amendment right.”
The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), along with the National Lawyer’s Guild, has also sent letters to the UCI Chancellor and to the Orange County District Attorney’s office which said in part:
…the right to freely express one’s opinions is a most sacred freedom protected by our Constitution, finding college campuses to be its most cultivating venue. Civil protest against government abuses is a time-honored tradition that has led to the end of apartheid and the birth of civil rights. … “The students voiced political views to shame the representative of a foreign government embroiled in controversy for its outrageous violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. Delivering this message in a loud and shocking manner expressed the gravity of the charges leveled against Israeli policies, and falls within the purview of protected speech.” In the letter to the district attorney’s office, Ayloush stated in part: “The selective application of laws by off-campus law enforcement agencies to students engaged in constitutionally-protected political speech will be viewed by the American Muslim community and those who value free speech as an attempt to repress legitimate student protest and will undermine this important First Amendment Right.” The letters to the university administration and the district attorney’s office urged that the “charges and disciplinary actions against the students involved be dropped.” Representatives of CAIR-LA have been in touch with the students, their parents, and many community members who have expressed concerns that the university’s actions amount to retribution against and intimidation of students for expressing dissenting political views. CAIR-LA has also been in touch with Chancellor Drake since Monday’s incident to share the Muslim community’s free speech concerns.
Non-violent direct action is part and parcel of the American protest culture. Just think where this nation would be if students didn’t disrupt the segregated lunch counters in the South, or if Dr. King didn’t disrupt the status quo of racial discrimination in our nation.” Bray concluded by saying that “The Irvine Eleven are not criminals. Rather, they are students of conscience who have taken a principled stand supporting human rights and the sanctity of all life. Nonviolent protest is as American as apple pie.
Local media reported that the local Jewish Federation and others blamed the university’s Muslim Student Union for the disruptions.
Before the speech, Elcott said his group [Jewish Federation of Orange County] was aware of an orchestrated campaign in which he said students were assigned a position and statement to read in order to disrupt the ambassador’s speech. The group notified campus police. Elcott and others blamed the university’s Muslim Student Union for the disruptions. A statement posted on that group’s website Monday condemned the university for inviting a man who “took part in a culture that has no qualms with terrorizing the innocent, killing civilians, demolishing their homes and illegally occupying their land.” The union, however, denied responsibility for the protests. “It was not put on by the MSU, but rather by students acting on their own,” said Hadeer Soliman, union spokeswoman. Only one of the students arrested could be reached, and he declined to comment.