UC Irvine's Muslim students' spokesperson says assemblyman seeks 'censorship'

IRVINE — A spokesman for UC Irvine's Muslim Student Union today accused Assemblyman Chuck DeVore of pursuing "censorship" after he called on the UCI chancellor to ban the Muslim Student Union from campus.

The organization also defended the 11 students, one of whom is president of the Muslim Student Union, who were arrested earlier this month for disrupting a speech by Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the United States.

"Michael Oren is the official representative of a state that engages in war crimes and crimes against humanity, as determined by the Human Rights Council and the United Nations' General Assembly,'' said Hadeer Soliman, a spokesman for the Muslim Student Union, in an e-mail interview.

As for DeVore, R-Irvine, Soliman said, "It concerns us, as an organization, when outside individuals or groups seek to punish the MSU.''

Soliman went on to say DeVore's call for MSU's banishment from UCI follows "a long history of antagonism against our organization. In the past, he has videotaped MSU events and interrupted speakers invited by the MSU. Such vigilante acts do not suit an assemblyman... Assemblyman DeVore is actually not seeking justice, but rather censorship.''

DeVore took a video camera to a Muslim Student Union event in May 2007 to challenge the university's policy allowing student groups to prohibit recordings of speakers. He said the speaker the organization had brought to campus did not object to the recording and DeVore thanked him in Arabic.

"Free speech in America doesn't mean you have a right to shout me down,'' DeVore said. "It means you can have your own event and protest, but you should do so elsewhere.''

DeVore found it particularly galling to be called an outsider when he is the elected representative of UC Irvine's campus and its students.

"I guess these students weren't paying attention when studying civics, which is maybe why they interrupt speakers, which is a violation of the 1st Amendment,'' DeVore said.

Soliman said DeVore's constituents do not "benefit when they see their taxpayer dollars at work to monitor and harass a student group, instead of being used to balance the state budget or make college education more affordable.''

DeVore, who is seeking the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat held by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., also accused the Muslim Student Union of "passing the hat'' for Hamas at a fundraiser last year.

That allegation is still under investigation, UC Irvine spokeswoman Cathy Lawhon said.

It would take a serious violation of the law to get a campus group banned, Lawhon said. For instance, a fraternity was banned several years ago when a pledge died during a hazing, she said.

University officials are considering a range of disciplinary action against the students and the Muslim Student Union, Lawhon said.

The university has been rocked by cries of anti-Semitism over the past several years when the Muslim Student Union booked pro-Palestinian speakers critical of Israel. DeVore has long criticized the group.

None of the 11 students who were arrested have been charged, according to court records.

blog comments powered by Disqus