The national headquarters of the Muslim Student Association (MSA) has condemned the recommendation by a University of California official that the it Irvine Chapter be suspended for one year as a result of its members having disrupted a speech by the Israeli Ambassador in February. According to the MSA announcement:
(MSA National – 6/15/2010) – The Muslim Students’ Association National condemns the recommendation for a one-year suspension ofthe University of California, IrvineMuslim Student Union(MSU) made by the Senior Executive Director of Student Housing due to allegations that the MSU violated sections of the University policy. The allegations arise from aU C Irvine-sponsored event in February featuring Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren. Several UC Irvine students stood up and protested during the event regarding Israeli policies toward Palestinians. The University alleges these students acted on behalf of the MSU, but the MSU repeatedly denies these claims, reiterating that the students acted on their own accord. News reports that the MSU has already been suspended are not true. The Jewish Federation of Orange County inaccuratel yreleased that the University’s determination to suspend the MSU is final. According to University policy,though,the Office of Student Conduct cannot make a unilateral informal decision to suspend an on-campus student organization. The MSU hasfiled an appeal to the University following its initial recommendation. While MSA National agrees that dissenting views must be given the respect to be heard, we are concerned with the implications that a suspension of the MSU would have on the rights and freedoms of Muslims on UC Irvine’s campus.The MSU is currently the only student group at UC Irvine that represents Muslim interests and includes over 100 active students and approximately 250 registered student members. Such an action would be unprecedented, unwarranted,and unjust to the larger Muslim community that the MSU serves on campus. We call on the University to reject the proposed recommendation and allow Muslims on campus to preserve their rights to fair representation, free speech, free exercise of religion, and the right to peaceably assemble.
The LA Times, however, reported the following findings of the UC Irvine Student Housing Director:
In making the suspension recommendation, Lisa Cornish, UC Irvine’s director of student housing, found that the Muslim Student Union had “planned, orchestrated and coordinated in advance” an effort to disrupt a speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren on Feb. 8 about U.S.-Israeli relations. The recommendation was made in late May but not made public at that time. According to the report, the group’s goal was to “send the speaker a message” and to develop a “game plan” to disrupt Oren’s speech…..The plan included identifying students willing to participate, drafting scripted statements and urging supporters to attend and cheer each disruption. The plan also instructed students to deny that the Muslim Student Union organized the protest, according to the report. The group violated university policies prohibiting “fabricating information (or) furnishing false information,” “obstruction or disruption of teaching, research, administration … or other University activities,” “disorderly or lewd conduct” and “participation in a disturbance of the peace or unlawful assembly,” according to the report. Oren was shouted down repeatedly by Muslim students who stood up and delivered statements such as “Michael Oren, propagating murder is not an expression of free speech.” Supporters cheered as the students were escorted away by police, and each time Oren attempted to resume his speech, another student jumped up with another outburst.
The Times report also cited the following complaints by Jewish groups on campus:
Jewish groups cite several incidents of perceived anti-Semitism on campus, including the defacing of an Israeli flag in a dorm room, the display of a poster equating the Star of David with a swastika, the vandalizing of a Holocaust memorial, and a 2006 program sponsored by the Muslim Student Union titled “Holocaust in the Holy Land” and “Israel: The Fourth Reich.”
According to a Hudson Institute report, the Muslim Student Association was the earliest known public front organization of what would later become the US Muslim Brotherhood and many USMB leaders were active in the early days of MSA. The MSA is now a “constituent organization” of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), itself a major part of the USMB. Previous posts have discussed important individuals close to the USMB who have emerged from an MSA background such as Mazen Asbahi who then candidate Obama appointed as his campaign Muslim outreach advisor. Asbahi was a former MSA leader who resigned his position after less than two weeks on the job when the GMBDW detailed his ties to the USMB. The Investigative Project has compiled a report on the history and extremism of the MSA.
To read the decision letter, go here
For video of the incident, go here.