OC Register: Muslim student group suspension appealed

IRVINE – UCI’s Muslim Student Union – suspended from the school for a year – can take its case up to the chancellor’s office if results of an appeal do not come out in their favor, officials said Tuesday.

University spokeswoman Cathy Lawhon said “the best case scenario” would be to resolve the issue before Sept. 1, when the suspension would go into effect. For the meantime, the student union is intact and allowed to be on campus, though most students have left campus after the school year was over.

“We want to get on with the job of being a center of academic excellence,” Lawhon said.

UCI officials recently revoked the student union’s charter for one year and placed the group on disciplinary probation for an additional year. Group members must collectively complete 50 hours of community service, which also needs to be approved by the university.

The Muslim Student Union members have appealed, officials said.

The suspension follows a months-long internal review by the university after 11 Muslim students were arrested during Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s speech on campus in February. Those 11 students stood up one at a time and yelled during Oren’s presentation and were subsequently detained.

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Click here to watch a raw video of the incident.

A letter – obtained and released by the Jewish Federation – from a student affairs disciplinary committee to union leaders said the group was guilty of disorderly conduct, obstructing university activities, furnishing false information and other violations of campus policy.

The Jewish Federation obtained documents from the university through the Freedom of Information Act.

Muslim activists describe the university’s action as draconian and swayed by outside groups which have pressured officials to crack down on the students.

Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the university’s “selective implementation of rules” is unprecedented and “smells of bias all over it.”

He said punishment should be proportional to the disruption, and that the rules should be applied to all campus groups when appropriate. The Muslim students who push the envelope on campus are unfairly scrutinized and demonized, Ayloush added.

Lawhon said that the university did not feel such undue pressure.

“In general, it was definitely a thoroughly considered and well-documented process,” she said. “It was not a rush to judgment.”

Erwin Chemerinsky, founding dean of UCI’s School of Law, said the students were being disciplined not for their speech but for engaging in disruptive behavior and lying to school officials before and after the Oren presentation.

The action taken by the university was appropriate and such misrepresentations by students are not tolerable, he added.

According to Chemerinsky, the heckling and the students’ conscious effort to disrupt the speech is not protected by the First Amendment.

“That’s not the same an occasional student yelling out randomly,” he said.

The students could’ve picketed outside with signs or passed out leaflets or asked hard questions, he said.

In a statement, former UCI student Isaac Yerushalmi said, “These results serve as a reminder that the 1st Amendment is a non-negotiable American value … I am proud to see that American universities will not tolerate these attempts to silence or censor the voices of minorities. I hope this landmark decision will lead to a new beginning between moderate Jewish and Muslim students; one of mutual respect, cooperation, and appreciation for one another.”

MSU’s attorney Reem Salahi said she could not comment on whether the MSU students are considering legal action if the appeal goes sour.

“It’s a shock and disappointing, and it’s very sad that an organization that’s been around at least 20 years …. The university would suspend it with such ease, without a second thought,” she said.

Describing it as a collective punishment, Salahi said the suspension will affect hundreds of Muslim students who attend regular Friday prayers, worship and socialize together.

“The fact of the matter is that MSU is a religious organization,” Salahi said. “It is the only organization of the Muslim center at UCI.”

If the appeals do not succeed, the suspension is binding and set to kick in Sept. 1, according to officials.

Contact the writer: 714-796-7956 or epak@ocregister.com

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5 responses to “OC Register: Muslim student group suspension appealed”

  1. ha says:

    those students were stupid. they reacted totally out of anger and showed no respect for event in which they were guests. whatever defense they have is completely unjustified. repeatedly interrupting a guest speaker at a large event is inexcusable and shows complete lack of adab.

    in fact, i remember back in my days in the msa at stony brook, a bunch of us attended a daniel pipes lecture on campus. We were upset at his invitation and the fact that he was speaking and spreading falsehoods, but we did not show disrespect. Several of us asked tough questions during the Q&A, and thats the most we could do.

    before any muslim tries to defend these idiots from UCI, try to put urself in the shoes of the event’s organizers. How do you think you would feel if at an MSA event in which a respected speakerwas invited to speak that a bunch of non muslims kept shouting at him.

    those students who disrupted the event should be suspended if not rusticated from the school. However severe the punishment on those students are – that can be debated. However, The MSA or MSUnion or whatever the club is called should not be punished for the act of a few idiots. Just as strongly we oppose this suspension of the MSA, we should even more strongly condemn the idiotic actions of those muslim students who exhibited entirely unislamic behavior.

    And Allah knows best.

  2. Omar says:

    I wonder if it’s proper adab to call thse brothers “stupid” and “idiots”? I do know that it is proper adab to hear both sides before issuing a judgement. It is also questionable that you would actually encourage the suspension of these students, I wonder if you’ve ever read the first amendment of the Constitution.

    These students should be hailed as heroes. They stood up and vocalized their opposition to the presence of an apologist for murder and genocide. Their actions were not a “react[ion] out of anger” but a very calculated and informed decision based on shura.

    I also am curious to know what authority you have to declare there actions as “unislamic behavior”. I wonder if you’ve consulted with the ulama, as these students have done prior to making the decision to proceed.

    Indeed it is alarming to see you, a Muslim, actually suggest that we should “put [o]urselves in the shoes of the event’s organizers”. Perhaps you should put yourself in the shoes of the people of Gaza, 1400 of whom were slaughtered by the country that man represented, perhaps then you may rethink your comment and realize that YOU “reacted totally out of anger and showed no respect”

    And Allah knows best.

  3. wow says:

    “those students were stupid. they reacted totally out of anger and showed no respect for event in which they were guests. whatever defense they have is completely unjustified. repeatedly interrupting a guest speaker at a large event is inexcusable and shows complete lack of adab.”

    Well I’m not sure how much adab you have by calling fellow Muslims idiots, or by assuming things about your Muslims brothers, such as them reacting out of anger (which is not true). So much for 70 excuses. The fact that the speaker was representing a government responsible for the killing of 1400 Palestinians and a inhumane blockade on Gaza, the same government building a separation wall and illegal settlements in the West Bank, means that he is a war criminal, someone who should be tried in a world court, not someone who should be respected. Would you condemn someone for speaking out against a Nazi during the Holocaust? Of course not, you would encourage it. What these brave students did in speaking out against the racist Israeli government on behalf of those Palestinians without voices is the equivalent.

    “before any muslim tries to defend these idiots from UCI, try to put urself in the shoes of the event’s organizers. How do you think you would feel if at an MSA event in which a respected speakerwas invited to speak that a bunch of non muslims kept shouting at him”

    More lack of adab there in once again attacking your Muslim brothers. Let’s use your suggestion and put ourselves in the shoes of the events organizers. The MSA would never bring a war criminal to speak, and if they did these Muslim students would be the first to speak out against it. Michael Oren is not a respected speaker, he is a criminal who is trying to justify the mass murder and occupation of Palestinians. These students risked their education and effectively their social lives to speak out against him and defend the cause of a people who have been oppressed for the last 60+ years.

    “those students who disrupted the event should be suspended if not rusticated from the school. However severe the punishment on those students are – that can be debated. However, The MSA or MSUnion or whatever the club is called should not be punished for the act of a few idiots. Just as strongly we oppose this suspension of the MSA, we should even more strongly condemn the idiotic actions of those muslim students who exhibited entirely unislamic behavior.”

    The fact that the MSU at UCI has come out and supported the actions of those Eleven students knowing that their actions could affect the entire organization shows that they agree with what was done. You want to sit here and condemn people with the courage to stand up and speak out against injustice because of how it affected a Muslim organization, yet that same organization is in full support of those very same students.

    It is because there are Muslims who are just blurting out any condemnation they can without knowing the facts and process of what happened that we are in such a bad state as an ummah. You are judging your brothers and their actions, and until you know the full story you should refrain from making assumptions and bagging on other Muslims.

  4. Re: Ha says:

    those students who disrupted the event should be suspended if not rusticated from the school.

    Wow you sound just like the mouthpiece of the Jewish lobby swarming that campus. So what happened you couldn’t stand up to pipes so to justify your cowardice you slander these Muslims by calling them ‘idiots.’ You know it so happens that I run into you pessimistic Muslims all the time, yet none of you have the guts to express your cynicism face to face. While expressing pretentious volume by your vacuous criticism from a self deprived clandestine position, behind your computer. Burn in your rage, this Ummah has no use for you.

  5. Ibrahim says:

    Amazing how Muslims attack others for having an opinion we disagree with.

    If you disagree with Ha, fine. What is the need for attacking her/him.

    In addition, would we want Muslim speakers to be heckled at and not allowed to speak?

    Because if we can do it , so can others to us.

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