My name is Gary Fouse, and I have taught English as a Second Language at the University of California at Irvine Ext since 1998 until the present. I am retired from the US Drug Enforcement Administration and have been employed part-time as an ESL teacher since retirement.
In the past few years at UCI, I have become aware of troubling developments at UCI involving the Muslim Student Union (MSU). On numerous occasions, the MSU hosts a week of events on campus, in which several speakers appear. The usual theme of the speakers is the Israel -Palestinian issue, in which, not surprisingly, speakers defend the Palestinian side and condemn Israel.
There is nothing wrong with this per se. While I defend Israel, I recognize that there are two sides to this issue, and it is entirely proper for both sides to be aired. What I find troubling is the virulent tone of many of the MSU-sponsored speakers, who not only criticize Israel, but call for its destruction and defend and glorify suicide bombers, as well as terrorist organizations like Hizbollah and Hamas. Even more
disturbing, some of these speakers have engaged in what I can only term as anti-Semitic (anti-Jewish rhetoric). In addition, many of the speakers are clearly anti-American.
One of the speakers who has appeared at UCI on at least two occasions that I am aware of is Imam Mohammed al-Asi from the Washington DC area. He is an open supporter of Hamas and Hizbollah. On a past visit to UCI, he referred to Jews as “low-life ghetto-dwellers”. He is also quoted as saying that , “you can take the Jew out of the ghetto, but you can’t take the ghetto out of the Jew”. Last May, al-Asi again appeared at UCI. I was present during this speech. On this occasion, he warned Jewish students in the audience that they were increasingly facing the wrath of the entire Islamic world-a thinly-veiled threat of violence in my view.
The most notable MSU-sponsored speaker is Amir Abdel Malik Ali, an Oakland-based imam who appears at virtually every MSU sponsored event. This man has glorified suicide bombers in Israel as “heroes” and “martyrs”. He speaks of a fight to the death in the Holy Land between Muslims and Jews over Israel. Like many of his cohorts in the MSU, he will deny he is anti-Semitic-only anti-Zionist. Yet when you listen to his words, he often spits out the term, “Zionist Jew” repeatedly.
Of course, like al-Asi, Malik Ali has nothing but contempt for America, as he throws out vile insults to his own country and government. But that is not the issue here. Anti-American sentiment on American university campuses is sadly not uncommon.
In his last appearance at UCI in November, I listened to his words and answers to questions (including my own). When one student asked him about President-elect Barack Obama, he laughed contemptuously and mentioned that Obama had as his three top advisors, “Rahm Israel Emanuel, Madelyn Albright and David Axelrod-a Zionist”.
I would like to direct the reader’s attention back to May 2008, the week MSU hosted its “Palestinian Holocaust Week”. As Mohammed al-Asi was spouting his venom in front of the flag pole area, a group of middle school or high school students were standing about 30 feet away. They were on a tour of UCI and were waiting to board their bus. As they stood there, they were exposed to the hateful words of al-Asi. There were several UCI deans in the crowd who were monitoring the event, making sure walkways were clear, and keeping Jewish student protesters from getting too close to the speakers. No one seemed to notice or care that younger students were within easy earshot of this anti-Semitic hate monger, al-Asi.
That same week, MSU students erected a mock wall near the flagpole depicting the wall Israel had erected to keep out suicide bombers. On that wall, were a number of pictures, drawings, photos and quotes. Among them was a drawing of Ariel Sharon, which was drawn in the old style of the anti-Jewish Nazi paper, Der Stuermer, which was published during the Third Reich by Nuremberg-based Gauleiter Julius Streicher. The caricature of Sharon featured him with a big hooked nose, thick lips and a leering expression on his face-typical of the Nazi caricatures of Jews. That drawing sat on that wall the entire week. Numerous school officials, including deans were near the wall during the events. They must have seen it. Yet, no one objected.
In addition, from time to time, there have been incidents of Jewish students who monitor these events and try to film them being subjected to verbal and/or physical intimidation. One Jewish former student I am aware of once had her camera shoved in her face by a Muslim student. No action was taken by campus police or the administration. Last May, after an evening speech by Malik Ali, a Jewish female student who had filmed the talk, was reportedly followed back to her car and accosted by a group of male MSU students who surrounded her car. The incident was reportedly witnessed by a South African woman, who tried to report it to Campus Police but was reportedly met by indifference. (I say “reportedly” because I have no personal knowledge of the incident. I referred the information to the UCI EEO Office for them to follow up on.)
That leads me to my next point. What has been the reaction of UCI’s administration to this on-going problem? It is true that Chancellor Michael Drake has met with Jewish community leaders and expressed his disapproval of hate speech in general terms. Yet he and other top university officials constantly refer to the right of freedom of speech-even offensive speech in not reacting to these expressions of anti-Semitism.
I also believe in free speech. I have never advocated that these speakers be dragged off to jail for what they say. I would hope, however, that at the least, someone from the university would step forward and say that “the words of speaker X when he said X constitute hate speech and we condemn it entirely”. I am unaware of any time that anyone from UCI has uttered such a specific condemnation of the words that have been spoken at UCI-which are hateful and inciteful. Generic condemnations of “hate speech” are, in my view, insufficient.
Yet many-even Jews- defend the university and say that the administrators of UCI are doing a great job in this area. This was the reaction when I wrote to the Director of the Orange County Human Relations Commission, Rusty Kennedy. In response, he lambasted me for my criticism of the university. ( I have also outlined my concerns in writing to the UCI EEO office.) The university has other defenders as well, such as at least one Jewish campus organization and many Jewish students at UCI who say there is no problem, and that they do not feel intimidated. I have heard many say that the controversy is all caused by “outsiders”. I would like to address these points.
First of all, I am not an outsider. I have taught at UCI for 10 years. I have attended many of the MSU-sponsored events. I have listened to many of the speakers, and, on several occasions, confronted them with questions. As a retired law enforcement officer of almost 30 years service, I think I can recognize hate speech and volatile situations.
As for the everyday situation at UCI, I have always stressed that 99% of UCI’s students are not involved in this ugliness. Most of our students are Asian-American, and they are there to study and enjoy their university experience. I see absolutely no anti-Semitism coming from them or the vast majority of the other students. Yet, two or three times a quarter, the campus is faced with this hateful rhetoric-aimed at Israel, America and Jews.
If many Jewish students see no problem at UCI beyond these periodic events, that is fine. However, if there is no problem, why did Anteaters for Israel take the trouble to protest the speeches of al-Asi and Malik Ali with posters warning students about “hate speech”?
So there is the problem as I see it. What are my ideas for a solution? I think for one, any further expression of anti-Semitic speech by MSU speakers should be immediately countered by a strong statement of specific condemnation by university officials.
Secondly, in the wake of the much-heralded “Olive Tree Initiative”, I think it would be fitting that UCI (which provides funding to MSU) let them know that it is time to find more moderate speakers-or tell the Malik Alis to tone down their rhetoric. Of course, I have stated more than once that if it were my university, the Malik Alis would not be allowed on campus. Most of my colleagues tell me I would lose that case in court. Perhaps so.
I also strongly believe that, as long as this situation continues to exist at UCI, the public should be made aware of what is taking place on the campus. The public has every right to know what their tax dollars are being used to support.
A couple of weeks ago, there was a brawl at UC Berkeley between Jewish and Palestinian-sympathizer students. Without taking sides on who was at fault, I feel strongly that UCI is potentially the scene of a far worse incident. I pray that it doesn’t happen, but if it does, I will not be one of those asking, “how could it happen here?” History has shown that hateful actions are preceded by hateful words. I feel strongly that the groundwork is being laid for a tragedy at UCI. Our campus has acquired the dubious distinction of being considered the most anti-Semitic campus in America according to many observers. In many respects, I would agree that is an unfair characterization. However, in other respects, it is not so unfair.
Finally, I should add that I myself am not Jewish. I am, however, an amateur scholar of the Third Reich and have spent almost three years of my life in the Nuremberg, Germany area. I have also written a book about the history of that area (specifically, the town of Erlangen). I think just the word, “Nuremberg” is sufficient to explain why I have become sensitive to the issue of anti-Semitism-and can recognize it when I see it. I mentioned above the name of Julius Streicher, the so-called “Jew Baiter of Nuremberg”, who was hanged as a war criminal after the Second World War. When Imam Mohammed al-Asi appeared at UCI and called Jews, “low life ghetto-dwellers”, the only difference between him and Streicher was the languages they spoke in.
This letter may be shared with whomever deemed appropriate.
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