In February of last year Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren was invited to speak at the University of California at Irvine. Unfortunately, his speech was interrupted and eventually canceled by a coordinated heckling attack mounted by a group of Muslim students who conspired in advance to prevent the ambassador from speaking.
In Orange County yesterday, eleven Muslim students were charged with misdemeanors for conspiring to disrupt the meeting. The Mohammed Coefficient of this case is 36.4%.
Needless to say, the local Islamic community is outraged by this assault on the rights of the students. But what makes the article interesting (and dismaying) is the response of various non-Muslim groups to the charges against the students.
First, the basics of the story from The Orange County Register:
Muslim students face charges in UCI protest
SANTA ANA – Eleven students were charged Friday with conspiring to disrupt a speech last year by the Israeli ambassador to the United States at UC Irvine.
The incident occurred Feb. 8, 2010, when Ambassador Michael Oren was the featured speaker on campus at a meeting co-sponsored by several organizations. Eleven Muslim students were arrested in the incident.
“This case is being filed because there was an organized attempt to squelch the speaker, who was invited to speak to a group at UCI,” District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said in a statement. “These defendants meant to stop this speech and stop anyone else from hearing his ideas, and they did so by disrupting a lawful meeting. This is a clear violation of the law and failing to bring charges against this conduct would amount to a failure to uphold the Constitution.”
Each defendant is charged with one misdemeanor count of conspiracy to disturb a meeting and one misdemeanor count of the disturbance of a meeting, according to a news release from the District Attorney’s Office. If convicted, each faces a sentence that could include probation with community service or fines or up to six months in jail.
They are scheduled to be arraigned on the charges March 11.
The defendants are: Mohamed Mohy-Eldeen Abdelgany, 23; Khalid Gahgat Akari, 19; Aslam Abbasi Akhtar, 23; Joseph Tamim Haider, 23; Taher Mutaz Herzallah, 21; Hakim Nasreddine Kebir, 20; Shaheen Waleed Nassar, 21; Mohammad Uns Qureashi, 19; Ali Mohammad Sayeed, 23; Osama Ahmen Shabaik, 22; and Asaad Mohamedidris Traina, 19.
While eight students charged are from UCI, Akari, Herzallah and Nassar were students at UC Riverside. [emphasis added]
Now the predictable reaction from a parent of one of the alleged conspirators:
“We don’t think they deserve to be charged,” said Mohy Abdelgany, 50, of Irvine, Abdelgany’s father. “They simply stood, made a very short statement and left the room peacefully. ... In the same event there was heckling and threats by other audience members with the opposite view of the protesters.”
Abdelgany added that his son is on vacation and not available to speak.
The details of the conspiracy:
The younger Abdelgany, who was president of the Muslim Student Union at UCI, is accused of meeting with other members of the group in the days before Oren’s speech to plan to disrupt it, prosecutors said. He is accused of sending an email to the group’s message board saying “we will be staging a University of Chicago Style disruption of the Ambassador’s speech.”
Two days before the speech, Abdelgany is accused of sending an email to the group’s message board with a “Game Plan” for disrupting the event, and advising in the email that “to the outside,” the disruption was to be portrayed as done by individuals, not the Muslim Student Union, in order to “put up an obstacle” against the UCI administration in case it was to “come after the MSU” afterward, according to prosecutors.
The day before Oren’s speech, Abdelgany sent an email advising “nondisruptors” to cheer after each “disruptor” finished, prosecutors said.
During Oren’s speech, the eleven are accused of standing up, one by one, and shouting statements such as “Michael Oren, propagating murder is not free speech” and “Michael Oren, you are a war criminal.”
All 11 defendants were arrested, cited and released at the time.
Enter the ACLU. There was a time when one would have expected the premier American civil liberties group to intervene on behalf of Ambassador Oren, whose right to speak had been unlawfully violated.
Those days are gone, however. Clearly, this ain’t your father’s ACLU:
After the charges were announced Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California said it was “deeply troubled” by the District Attorney’s decision.
“We are unaware of any case where a district attorney pressed criminal charges over this type of non violent student protest,” said Hector Villagra, incoming director of the ACLU of Southern California, in a statement. “The District Attorney’s action will undoubtedly intimidate students in Orange County and across the state and discourage them from engaging in any controversial speech or protest for fear of criminal charges.”
Then come the “civic and religious organizations”:
Earlier Friday, representatives from nearly 30 civic and religious organizations in Southern California questioned the district attorney’s decision to launch a grand jury investigation of the 11 students.
The grand jury was not used to indict the defendants, but was used as an investigative arm of the district attorney under state law, said Susan Kang Schroeder, Rackauckas’s chief of staff.
In a letter addressed to Rackauckas, members of Muslim, Christian, Jewish and civil rights organizations questioned the resources being spent in the investigation, calling the possibility of felony charges being levied against the students excessive for a university demonstration.
“While we acknowledge that crimes can and do occur on college campuses, we are hard-pressed to understand why a University-specific situation, which was thoroughly dealt with by the UCI administration, would require the OCDA office’s reopening of the matter, particularly by investigating it as a felony crime,” the letter reads.
“Such a probe is wasting tax payers’ dollars,” said Munira Syeda, spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
OK, the complaint by CAIR is par for the course. But it gets worse:
“I found their (the students’) behavior incredibly boorish,” said Rev. Paul Tellstrom of the Irvine United Congregational Church, before the charges were filed Friday afternoon. The church’s Advocates for Peace and Justice supported the letter. “But I still think the actions being enacted (by Rackauckas) are very over the top.”
Rev. Sarah Halverson of Irvine’s Fairview Community Church called the grand jury investigation “an overreaction.”
“It’s symptomatic of something in our society and how we feel about Islam,” Halverson said, stating that she felt the students were being targeted. “I think that’s not appropriate.”
Rev. Wilfredo Benitez of Saint Anselm of Canterbury Episcopal Church said he was perplexed by the decision to investigate the incident.
“I don’t see the value or point of it,” he said. “I’m also concerned it could further polarize the community and generate further suspicion of Muslims. This doesn’t help build bridges.” [emphasis added]
This makes me ashamed to be a member of a mainstream Christian denomination in the United States. I doubt that a single one of them, except possibly the Baptists, would dare to resist the systematic mau-mauing by Islam that goes on in this country. Institutionally speaking, only the evangelicals and the Orthodox are willing to take a stand.
If you haven’t seen the video of the incident, take a look at it. Who was “polarizing the community” at that meeting? How does this sort of behavior help in the “building of bridges”?
God help us all.
For a complete listing of previous enrichment news, see The Cultural Enrichment Archives.
Hat tip: New English Review.