Let the Irvine 11 speak

By Yasmin Mogahedprofessor, author Earlier this month, students at the University of California at Irvine and Berkeley passed a resolution … Continued

By Yasmin Mogahed
professor, author

Earlier this month, students at the University of California at Irvine and Berkeley passed a resolution in support of 11 UC-Irvine students who interrupted Israeli Ambassador Oren’s speech on February 8. Similar resolutions were passed at UCLA, UC-San Diego, and UC-Davis. Despite the support, theIrvine students still face expulsion and even misdemeanor charges. But what many do not realize is that the protest at Irvine was not unique.

In January 2008, another group of protesters did the very same thing. That time the speaker wasn’t an ambassador. He was a presidential candidate who is now president of the United States. While Barack Obama was speaking in Rochester N.H., a group of 10 anti-abortion protesters interrupted his speech to make a statement. But what is most interesting is not what the protesters did during his speech; it is what happened just after they were escorted out. Obama addressed the audience and said: “Let me just say this though. Some people got organized to do that. That’s part of the American tradition we are proud of. And that’s hard too, standing in the midst of people who disagree with you and letting your voice be heard.”

The American tradition we are proud of”? What? Looks like the president has a totally different take on this type of protest than the administration at UCI. Those officials argue that the protesters impeded the ambassador’s First Amendment right to free speech. That seems like a hard sell. Oren was not prevented from speaking; he was able to finish his entire talk with time left over. The interruptions were brief, did not constitute hate speech and did not incite violence.

It is important to note that the protest at Irvine was not some sort of emotional outburst by a group of angry Muslim men. The incident needs to be framed as it was: a controlled, deliberate act of civil disobedience. Rosa Parks was tired when she refused to get up from her seat, but she did so deliberately to make a statement against injustice. At the time, no doubt, many people thought she was out of line.

The Irvine students weren’t just standing up for Muslim rights. They were using their freedom of speech to stand up for the human rights of those whose voices would otherwise go unheard. And isn’t that the very “American tradition” this country was founded on? In fact, freedom of speech is the tradition Gallup finds ranks among the highest in what Muslims admire most about the West. Yet, Gallup also finds that most Muslims don’t believe we live these values in our treatment of them.

Excluding Muslim Americans from the very tradition we value most sends a chilling message to an already marginalized group–and to the entire world. Moreover, pushing Muslim Americans out of the normal political sphere, only serves as a recruiting point for the very group we’re trying to defeat: the radicals.

Yasmin Mogahed is a writer and professor of written communication at Cardinal Stritch University.

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  • vinnencogmailcom

    Shame they arent out protesting the daily attacks by muslim worldwide. Which currently number 14987 in the last 8 and a half years..and counting.Nor was their any mention of anti jewish and anti christian hate speech that fill their koran. Totally biased and poorly researched story..SHAME

  • AKafir

    They should be expelled. The muslim student association uses borderline violence and threats and disruptions to shut down any discussion of a topic they dislike. Not being able to have free speech at the nation’s campuses of all places is deep and serious threat to free and open discussion anywhere. It is a shame that Yasmine prefers silence by thuggery rather than free speech. Yasmine needs to leave her cultral origins behind and learn to be free before she suggests that free speech be sacrificed.

  • yasseryousufi

    “Shame they arent out protesting the daily attacks by muslim worldwide. Which currently number 14987 in the last 8 and a half years..and counting.”***********************************************

  • EraserOfLies

    Maybe at least some of the attacks by Muslims are a result of oppression of and injustices against Muslims. Attacks AGAINST Muslims in the past week, if counted, may far outnumber the estimates above.The Irvine 11 attempted to stand up for those whose voices are ignored (and who are living without even the basic human rights) in a place whose government claims to be the ONLY “country” with this protected right for its citizens in the Middle East.Additionally, in his speech at UCI, Mr. Oren seems to be preaching Judaism more than actually speaking about policy. Maybe when it comes to justifying certain atrocities (policies, etc.), the line dividing church and state fades. Or maybe when it comes to Israel, the line does not even exist to begin with. Finally, the Irvine 11 attempted a seemingly radical approach, although not at all uncommon in the history of civil disobedience (which once, by the way, also resulted in the independence of the US).So, what about these double standards? Has there been a new restriction on the right of Free Speech: one is allowed this right so long as it does not interfere with US Foreign Policy with Israel? It seems so, because even President Obama, in a town hall meeting in Tampa, FL, himself implied full support of Israel against its so-claimed “enemies.”If these double standards are reality, then there’s something definitely hypocritical here, something fueling the significant drop in US amiability around the world.

  • EraserOfLies

    Just a question: how many people reading this have actually even attended/watched the speech?Maybe before accusing others, it’s best to do some homework. Otherwise, we only show our ignorance.Associating self-generated ideas/words with Yasmine to justify one’s dislike/hatred of a group of people (without a legitimate reason) may well define “silence by thuggery” that was mentioned earlier.If one wants to argue for the sake of argument, please don’t waste anyone’s time or space by posting such comments. Anyone willing to carry out a discussion, for the sake of beneficial action, is welcome.

  • abhab1

    Mujahed pontificates thus:How many of those rowdies are Americans? They look to me to be the same bunch that firebombed churches in their homelands when someone in Europe drew a cartoon.

  • yasseryousufi

    I’ve just seen that entire speech on youtube. Its obvious that these students are being targeted for being muslim. The student organizations have been doing these kinds of protests in universities for decades. You can bet your bottom dollar that if you replace the Israeli ambassador with Ahmedinejad and the muslim protestors with Pro Israel protestors no such thing would have ever happened. Instead it would be considered acceptable behaviour with nobody going out of there way to apologize to Ahmedinejad like they did with Oren.

  • aminpyramid

    It is shame for some to use this article and attack Islam, and the holy Quran, with ignorant and sound bite they hear. You like it or not everyone have the right of free speech, and protest even against the Israeli ambassador. The Irvine 11 is not running for the congress to shy of express their opinion about the ambassador of occupational country, who kills to prevent the Palestinians from being free in the name of terrorist.

  • ali_moussa

    If someone is talking the killing in the name of Islam, let there be no mistake, these actions are not committed by normal people. Such acts are made through twisted mentalities. In history the crusades killed more than 70,000 Muslims when they conquered Jerusalem. The killings went on in the name of Cross and ordered by Pop Bendict I. More than 6 millions lost their lives in the name of Christianity by different sects in WW I. More than 23 million Russians lost their lives on the hands of the German army in WW-II who was driven under the banner of better race and blessed with the Church in Germany. Old Testament is full of savage passages portraying the image of a savage God. Definitely these passages were written by humans with twisted mentalities as well. Yet, such words are Godly words. God is merciful, generous, and compassionate not as they portray Him. He is the God of all creatures not the Elohim that they claim their own God only and claiming the rest of the world as Gentile or simply in their interpretations as Animals created to serve them (the claimed chosen people). Now those who are advocating throwing the dirt against Muslims and stealing their lands, rights, and preventing them from even resisting to die, those people are without senses and they don’t feel ashamed of what the future may turn against them when the truth will be revealed to everyone.To the editor: Please publish and don’t drop and/or go selectively.Regards