The Muslim Student Union sparked controversy on Feb. 26 when they invited Imam Amir Abdel Malik to speak at the Cross-Cultural Center.
Malik, whose previous visit to UCI in November of 2001 resulted in an angry confrontation with the Irvine College Republicans, is most well known for his anti-Zionist views.
The Anteaters for Israel responded to his presence on campus by setting up a booth outside the Cross-Cultural Center in an attempt to raise awareness of his presence at UCI.
Merav Ceren, a second-year biological sciences major and president of Anteaters For Israel explained why the organizationrequested support from groups like the College Republicans, the Young Democrats and the Lebsian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center for their protest.
‘It’s not so much that [Malik] is anti-Semitic and anti-Israel. He’s also anti-gay, anti-Christian and anti-American.’
According to Ceren, their group was concerned about the possibility of another confrontation.
‘We’ve been trying to promote peace. We’ve been trying to initiate dialogue with the Muslim Student Union, but we haven’t been able to,’ Ceren said. ‘We were afraid that this event would cause another riot and another problem. We’re having our booth today specifically to show that students here do not stand for hate speech.’
A few feet away from Anteaters for Israel, the Muslim Student Union also set up a booth to try to promote awareness to UCI students about Islam.
Kareem Elsayed, a third-year biomedical engineering major and president of the Muslim Student Union explained the reasons his group decided to invite Malik to speak at UCI.
‘He brings the knowledge and he presents it in a very easy-to-swallow way. It’s laid out, it’s clear and it’s lucid. That’s his style,’ Elsayed said.
Elsayed also disputed reports that Malik had ever caused a riot on campus.
‘Never once when he was here was there a fight or a riot or anything of the sort,’ Elsayed maintained. ‘Never.’
As students and faculty gathered in the main conference room of the Cross-Cultural Center, it was clear that Malik’s reputation had preceded him. With standing room crowd that included Muslims and Jews alike, the tension and anticipation hung thickly in the air.
After a prayer and poem were read, Elsayed asked that all recorders and cameras be put away.
Malik started by clarifying to whom exactly his speech was geared toward.
‘There are good Jews and there are bad Jews. I’m here today to talk about the bad Jews,’ Malik said.
He explained that the only bad Jews are Zionists and that Zionists are not following the Torah. Malik defined Zionism as a national movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland in order to build a sovereign state in the land of Israel.
Malik condemned the American government for its ‘War on Terrorism.’ He explained that because of the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, we have inadvertently unleashed the Islamic movement in both countries.
‘Every time they kindle the flames of war, Allah does extinguish it,’ Malik said.
Malik finished his talk by detailing his infamous ‘Jewish Cracker’ theory. He contended that Jews are plagued with arrogance, an arrogance that is brought about by a combination of ideas like white supremacy and the notion that Jews are the chosen people. This arrogance, he claimed, is a ‘deadly mix.’
After his speech, Malik opened a Q-and-A dialogue. Malik encouraged students who disagreed with him to speak out. He also made it clear that while Muslims and Jews could attempt to understand one another through peaceful dialogue, he said the two groups would never be friends. They would in fact, according to Malik, always be enemies. He then was bombarded with questions, and some students who were frustrated with his responses walked out of the room.
Joseph Hekmat, a fourth-year international studies major, expressed his disappointment with Malik’s speech and the negative effects it could have on the Muslim Student Union.
‘I thought the man’s words had no substance,’ Hekmat explained. ‘They were based on conspiracy theories. More importantly I think that his appearance hurt the [Muslim Student Union’s] reputation on campus because his words were so inflammatory and directly stated that Zionists could only be enemies with Arabs.’
However, the Muslim Student Union does not believe that bringing Malik to UCI would cause their group to be seen more negatively on campus, and believes that it is important to bring speakers like Malik to UCI.
‘It’s only natural that we would speak out against injustice whenever and wherever we see it,’ Elsayed said. ‘We are trying to bring that awareness to the UCI campus.’
The Muslim Student Union will attempt to spread this message this week from March 1 through 4 when they host an Anti-Oppression week. They are planning to hold events in front of the Administration Building and Student Center in an effort to promote awareness about oppression all over the world.