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Interesting Controversy at University of Michigan,

described here ("A fury over 'ex-terrorists'") and here ("Event billed as speech by ex-terrorists draws ire"). I pass this along just because it seemed like an interesting story, though one that hasn't yet drawn a great deal of attention. It might be helpful to read both stories before commenting.

Steve:
It took me a bit before I could actually figure out what exactly was being protested. It seems to me there are a number of plausible reasons why people from all over the political spectrum might choose to protest these speakers! Ultimately, it seems like the complaint is that these are basically ex-Muslims bashing not just terrorism, but the religion of Islam itself.

Anani cited an incident in Ottawa during which he said a Jewish girl stood up and defended the Quran at one of his speeches.

"I asked her if she had ever read it and she said no," Anani said. "I told her, 'I'll give you a hundred dollars for every peace sentence in the Quran, and you give me five dollars for every hate sentence. You'll pay me a fortune.' "


Free speech is free speech, of course, but one should hardly be surprised that this kind of thing sparks controversy. An ex-Christian bashing Christianity would attract a lot of opposition, too, notwithstanding the people who would claim that this is the last acceptable prejudice.

I think it would simply be interesting to hear about the sort of culture where pre-teens end up as terrorists. It helps us consider whether there's anything we could do about it.
1.31.2007 3:00pm
Houston Lawyer:
They appeared to be protesting that these guys gave up terrorism. Surely we have something to learn from those who were recruited into this kind of violence and have changed their ways. They can explain both how they were recruited and what caused them to give it up.

The protestors appeared to want to tell these guys that they didn't know what they were talking about.
1.31.2007 3:16pm
Jeff Shultz (mail):
But, but, but... that's the religion of peace! And everyone knows that the only terrorist is GWB. /sarcasm
1.31.2007 3:22pm
adf32 (mail):
What about the part where the guy says he killed 223 people while he was a terrorist, but then 'played it down' in order to get a visa into Canada????

How do you play that down? "Well...~small laugh~...thanks, thanks, but it was really more like 20."
1.31.2007 3:41pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Was this quote (from the first article) accurate?


Walid Shoebat, the last speaker, drew cheers from the remaining members of the audience with his final remark.

"We will have peace when we love our children more than we love peace," he said.


Shouldn't that last "peace" have been "war" or "violence" or something like that? Or am I missing something?
1.31.2007 3:48pm
Anon Y. Mous:

It might be helpful to read both stories before commenting.

You do have an interesting sense of humor.
1.31.2007 3:51pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Events like this one have their own importance, but they have an additional result:

Other people are forced to, in effect, reveal what they think. Does the local Muslim student group advocate for forbidding the talk, or do they want equal time? Does anybody advocate for forbidding the event? Who? On what grounds?

Does the U provide honest security for the event, unlike, say, at Columbia when a Minuteman spoke?

How do supporters characterize the talk and the inevitable controversy?

All very useful data.
1.31.2007 3:58pm
Shake-N-Bake:
It looked like the student group at U of M wanted to protest and hold their own event (which they did). It also looks like the 'adults' in the Michigan chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee wanted it shut down.

Perhaps we are making progress -- the young people apparently are smarter than the adults here, realizing that they have the right to protest but not to censor it completely, and protested and had their own talk. You can debate the merits of the walkout (personally, if I disagreed with someone I'd like the opportunity to ask questions, and wouldn't want to walk out and lose that opportunity to learn), but it's a whole lot better than out-and-out attempts to censor.

I also noted that the heckler that was removed looked a wee bit too old to be a Michigan student. Again, the kids handling it better than the adults.
1.31.2007 4:15pm
Rick Wilcox (www):
One thing I found very interesting...
In "Event billed as speech by ex-terrorists draws ire", one of the commenters pointed to YAF's own protest. The fundamental differences were astounding - YAF did not attempt to fill the auditorium in order to shut out the intended audience (better still, they showed up in the horrible drove of about a dozen). They did not attempt to shout down the speakers. Heck, the article on their protest doesn't even say that they went into the venue, just protested peacefully outside.
1.31.2007 4:23pm
JohnAnnArbor (www):
Any criticism of Islamists is going to be called criticism of Islam by protestors like that. On the plus side, they didn't rush the stage or hit anyone, like at Columbia.
1.31.2007 4:24pm
ed o:
let's see-are the protesters lynne stewart wannabes who just haven't yet worked themselves up to actively aiding terrorism? why is this a free speech thread? I think it is more of thread about a species the left claims doesn't exist-the intellectual america hating terrorist lover. supposedly, the left doesn't really love terror, they are just supporting our american values and making sure that everyone gets a fair trial. yet, these pseudointellectuals seems to disagree-they love terror.
1.31.2007 4:30pm
Dan Hamilton:
Why were the protesters wearing YELLOW t-shirts?

The only thing I can think of is that they are supporting Hezbulla(sp). Could that be correct?

They were protesting EX-TERRORISTS while supporting TERRORISTS. And they wonder why people call them Moonbats.

Gang colors. Yellow for Hez and Green for FATA.

The only good terrorist is a dead terrorist.
1.31.2007 4:54pm
Steve:
Any criticism of Islamists is going to be called criticism of Islam by protestors like that.

Yeah, well, when you talk about how many "hate sentences" there are in the Koran - be it a fair point or not - that's pretty clearly a criticism of Islam and not just Islamists.

As for whether there are other organizations than Hezbollah in the world who employ yellow as a color, I claim ignorance, but gosh, you'd sure assume so.
1.31.2007 5:15pm
Federal Dog:
The event has drawn allegations of hate speech from the Michigan office of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, whose representatives asked the University administration to block it.


Oh, of course they did. What the bloody hell has happened to our universities?
1.31.2007 5:17pm
ed o:
of course, how many would show up at this particular function? perhaps they were the Tweety Bird Fan Club, but I doubt it.
1.31.2007 5:20pm
Seamus (mail):

Any criticism of Islamists is going to be called criticism of Islam by protestors like that. On the plus side, they didn't rush the stage or hit anyone, like at Columbia.



So what's wrong with criticism of Islam anyway? I criticize Mormonism, Scientology, Christian Science, Marxism-Leninism, and various other comprehensive world views with some frequency, and I put up with others criticizing Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. I should think that any belief system, because it is making truth claims, should expect to be challenged by those who deny those truth claims, and even by those who believe those truth claims are not only false or invalid, but dangerous.
1.31.2007 6:10pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail):
Anyone see the photo of the heckler being hauled off by campus cops? It's a cliche, but it's true. You never see the pretty girls protesting in the name of tolerance.
1.31.2007 6:39pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail):
To piggyback on Seamus - let's remember that many of the non-Muslim folks who defend Islam from its critic on the ground that it's not right to criticize religious beliefs are themselves atheist or agnostic. Many believe that the Koran, along with the Bible, Torah and so forth, were written by mortal men. What, therefore, is wrong with criticizing beliefs derived from those books and from the way that men - and it's been only men - have expounded them?
1.31.2007 6:42pm
Steve:
So what's wrong with criticism of Islam anyway?

There's nothing "wrong" with criticizing Islam, or any religion for that matter. The fact that people get offended by it isn't reason for the speech to be barred, but it's not a fact anyone should be surprised by, either.
1.31.2007 6:51pm
Shake-N-Bake:
Anyone see the photo of the heckler being hauled off by campus cops? It's a cliche, but it's true. You never see the pretty girls protesting in the name of tolerance.

Of course not. It being Tuesday night, they were probably all getting ready to go out to whatever bar replaced Mitch's as the Tuesday night destination (I heard Mitch's has closed). The only tolerance relevant is alcohol tolerance.
1.31.2007 7:27pm
Steve:
Back in the day, they used to say that 9 out of 10 girls in the Big Ten are good-looking, and the other one goes to Michigan.
1.31.2007 7:33pm
Humble Law Student (mail):
I loved this quote


Imad Hamad, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee's state director for Michigan, said he is worried about the effect this event will have on the public impression of Islam.

"We can't take terrorists and put them through rehab and make them role models," Hamad said. "We can't do extreme makeover on terrorists."



Oh, so wait a minute here... so we should just kill them all?
1.31.2007 7:36pm
Humble Law Student (mail):
Mike,

You are so right.
1.31.2007 7:37pm
John Steele (mail):

"We will have peace when we love our children more than we love peace," he said.

Shouldn't that last "peace" have been "war" or "violence" or something like that? Or am I missing something?


Joseph Slater,

Perhaps he meant that we need to be tough to achieve real peace. That is, perhaps he was saying: "if we take bold defensive steps to secure our children's safety, then actual peace may be possible. If we pursue an accommodationist 'peace,' then our children and future generations will have no real peace."
1.31.2007 7:37pm
SeaLawyer:

So what's wrong with criticism of Islam anyway? I criticize Mormonism, Scientology, Christian Science, Marxism-Leninism, and various other comprehensive world views with some frequency, and I put up with others criticizing Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular.


The majority of Muslims have never experienced criticism until they come to the west and generally do not know how to handle it. I am Catholic so I got used to Catholic bashing at a young age.
1.31.2007 8:42pm
Colin (mail):
To piggyback on Seamus - let's remember that many of the non-Muslim folks who defend Islam from its critic on the ground that it's not right to criticize religious beliefs are themselves atheist or agnostic.

What atheists or agnostics say this? I don't think I've seen this claim in the context you assert.
1.31.2007 9:00pm
Chris Bell (mail):
Yeah, as an atheist I find it my solemn duty to criticize ALL religious beliefs.

You can lead a horse to water....
1.31.2007 9:27pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Steve: Hey, my wife went to U of M!
1.31.2007 9:41pm
Brian K (mail):
It's no wonder there were protests and calls to block event. It's hosted by a right-wing anti-muslim group and the 3 presenters are known to conflate islam with terrorism. This event was not put on to advance ideas of peace and freedom...it was put on to stir up hate and fear. If it was the former there would have more moderate voices and any number of the many muslims that rightfully denounce terrorism. It's ridiculous to say the protesters are out of line especially when the mere utterance of "happy holidays" is taken to be an all out war on christianity. If anything i'm surprised there wasn't more of a reaction.

For those of you say "us [insert religion here] take criticism all the time, why can't muslims take any" my response would be that its not the same. The criticisms of islam are much more extreme and numerous than criticisms of other religions (with the possible exception of scientologists, but to be fair, they are wackjobs). Which other religion is only portrayed on tv as terrorists? How many positive portrayals of islam do you see? In which other religions are members arrested for praying? What would be the reaction if a catholic is taken off of an airplane in handcuffs just for holding a rosary? Other religions have political power that can be used to their advantage. Muslims however don't have any (except for one senator and we can all remember the outrage when he attempted to use koran).

In the face of extreme insults, protesters need to be louder just to get heard. I'll admit the calls for censorship were extreme and they were rightly denied, but it succeeded in getting media attention to their viewpoint which I imagine was their primary goal.
1.31.2007 11:26pm
JamesWN (mail):

It's no wonder there were protests and calls to block event. It's hosted by a right-wing anti-muslim group and the 3 presenters are known to conflate islam
with terrorism.


Might I suggest that you take that issue up with the scholar of Al-Azhar University Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi and Egyptian mufti Dr. Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, who justify terrorist operation against Israeli civilians on religious ground. Then you should tell the not-so-small minority of British Muslims who supported the 7-7 terrorist attack in London and 9-11 attacks on the New York that what they are supporting has nothing to do with Islam.
It's simply baffling how disconnected the apologists for Islam are from the public statements of scholars in Islamic law and actual Muslim opinion having centuries of interpretation on their side.
As many western legal traditions, Islam has a very advanced set of canons of interpretations which differ from the western system by regulating apostasy, war and penal law.
2.1.2007 4:05am
Brian K (mail):
JamesWN,

what's baffling is the attempt to link islam with terrorism. terrorism has little to do with religion. Every religion has its own little group of terrorists: IRA is roman-catholic, the unabomber was not religiously motivated, Aum Shinrikyo was a cult, etc... Terrorism is used as a political tool in a vain attempt to achieve a goal. While I am against terrorism in all forms, even the state sponsored kind, that doesn't mean i'll sit idly by and let people trash an entire religion because of the actions of a few.

I'll respond to your ridiculous claim that just because a few people say islam is a justification for terrorism that every muslim believes in and desires to use terrorism with a few question. Does the desire by some christian fundamentalist to see a massive war between isreal and surrounding countries as way to bring about the rapture make a christians warmongers? Does pat robertsons call to assassinate hugo chavez make a christians terrorists? Of course not. so why does the desire by a subgroup of the muslim population to go to war with isreal make all muslims terrorists? As for the interpretation part there are many many ways to interpret the bible or the koran. just because you happen to pick the most negative one, doesn't mean it is widely believed. that shows more about your biases than muslims.

I'll even provide a reasonable non-religious explanation as to why people "supported" the attacks. (I take your use of "supported" to mean "did not immediately denounce to my satisfaction" because it is obvious that very very few people, certainly less than 100 or 2 out of a billion muslims, actually gave material, logistical, or moral support to the attackers.) America and its allies are their enemy for many legitimate, non-religious reasons. I guarantee you that if another country invaded us on false pretense with anti-christian rhetoric and then proceeded to kill around a hundred thousand civilians we'd be pretty pissed to and consider them our enemies. Hatred of isreal too can be explained in non-religious reasons (however this doesn't make the religious reasons less forceful). If another country came in and took land from one of our allies and displaced its citizens and gave them very little power in the government, we'd be pissed to and hate the new government. Isn't this essentially what happened during the cold war and the many proxy wars? Didn't we applaud every negative thing that happened to russia and weren't we saddened by every positive thing that happened to them? how is this any different?
2.1.2007 6:08am
Brian K (mail):
I should also add bombings of abortion clinics and attacks on homosexuals as an example of terrorism by christians in the US and the destruction of churches in the south during the civil rights era as attacks of primarily white christians against primarily black christians. does any of these make all christians terrorists or mean that christianity is a religion that fosters and advocates terrorism? no, of course not.
2.1.2007 6:25am
ed o:
link islam with terrorism? Islam makes its own links with terrorism given that, if one were to be in the business of making such estimates, 99% of terrorist acts worldwide are committed in the name of Allah. If one were to find a christian church today which says bomb abortion clinics, the apologists here and the yellow shirt wearing wannabes might have a point-on the other hand, it isn't difficult to find a mosque where death to jews and death to infidels isn't the holy writ. it's really not at all baffling, unless you are a professor or a college student.
2.1.2007 9:14am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Brian K:

You are confusing terrorism by someone who happens to profess a particular religion with terrorism in the name of religion. The IRA was not trying to convert people to Catholicism, nor were they claiming that their Catholic beliefs demanded that they kill non-Catholics. (Indeed, the IRA was Marxist, not Catholic at all, although obviously many of their supporters were Catholic.)

That bears no relationship to Islamic terrorism. Which is not the action of 800 million Muslims, to be sure -- but is also not the action of a "few." Tens of thousands of people trained with Al Qaeda. Hezbollah has thousands of members, and of course millions of supporters. Ditto for Hamas. These are not groups that just happen to be made up of Muslims; these are groups that are explicitly Muslim in motivation.
2.1.2007 9:17am
ed o:
unfortunately, it is not just muslims who sympathize with the more active killers-it is apparently american university students, leftist lawyers and law professors, and other "anti-war" worties.
2.1.2007 10:30am
Brian K (mail):
David,

Neither of your above points are technically correct. The IRA was partially motivated by what they saw as religious oppression by protestants. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troubles). It is still violence motivated, to some extent, by religious beliefs.

Likewise Hezbollah has prominant non-religious motivations. "Hezbollah began to take shape during the Lebanese Civil War with three main goals comprising eradication of what it viewed as Western imperialism including the influence of the Phalangists, destruction of the state of Israel and building an Islamic state.[5][6][7] Hezbollah has realized the goal of transforming Lebanon into an Islamic state is not a practical one at this time and has temporarily abandoned it." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hezbollah).

As to Hamas, it really has 2 branches a military wing that carries out the terrorist attacks and a charitable wing that provides aid to palestinians. (http://www.cfr.org/publication/8968/ - i didn't use wikipedia here because the article has neutrality issues and a brief search of cfr didn't turn up major criticisms)

That doesn't make their actions any less wrong, it just shows that the motivation of these groups is complicated and it is not possible to say that they are motivated solely by religion. Religion is also a very useful rallying tool, but again, that doesn't necessarily mean that their actions are carried out solely in the name of islam.

As for the actions of a "few", i referring specifically to those who carried out the attacks on 7/7 and 9/11.
2.1.2007 10:31am
ed o:
ah, the old military and charitable wing dodge. are they affiliated? does the "charitable" wing condemn the violence of that nasty "military" wing? no matter how much dodging one does, you can't make an argument of that squishy reasoning.
2.1.2007 11:23am
David W Drake (mail):
I have to say that, as a double UoM alum, I was proud of the way this was handled all around. The protestors came in, made their point and left, and the one person who would neither leave nor shut up was led more or less peacefully away. The original speeches went on to the end. The protestors organized and conducted a peaceful counter demonstration, apparently without hecklers,etc.

Some of the best news out of A2 in a long time (well, since before the O$U football game.)

And, Steve, my wife went to UofM too, so let's keep the irrelevant and offensive comments to a minimum here. O.K.?
2.1.2007 12:55pm
ed o:
Yes, I would feel reassured and heartened living in Ann Arbor to be aware of a large contingent of Hezbollah sympathizers in the area. things must be bad in AA if that fills one with pride.
2.1.2007 3:39pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Brian sez: 'America and its allies are their enemy for many legitimate, non-religious reasons.'

Comin' back atcha, then, Brian.

But I'm glad you cleared up for us that Muslims are our enemy. I'd already figured it out for myself, once I got over my immediate reaction to Sept. 11 -- "Methodists again!"
2.1.2007 6:39pm
Stephen F. (mail) (www):
I go to school in Ann Arbor (Ave Maria Law), and drove by the protest on Tuesday night. I saw a handful of signs, and they all had something to do with Israel. "No more war for Israel," and a few about Israel being the real terrorists. I assumed that the speaker was Jewish until I saw the story here on Volokh. Whatever fair criticisms there are about the speakers and their views, they weren't being advanced by that crowd Tuesday night. A conservative student group hosted an event that involved Islam, and the anti-Israel crazies came out of the woodwork.
2.1.2007 7:55pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
From a free speech standpoint, the event actually seemed to go okay, apart from some rudeness on the part of the hecklers, and some of the YAF supporters (who tried to trip the protesters as they walked in). The "ex-terrorists" made their speeches, and the protesters (for the most part) made their protest point and walked out.

As for anti-Israel protesters, they show up at every vaguely leftist protest event, regardless of the lack of any connection of the event to Israel. But, at any big protest, they are typically one of many similar groups, joining the LaRouchites, the world communist league (whatever it is called), etc.-- in short, the usual circus of fringe groups. The right wing has its share of the fringe groups too, but since the right has been in power, they are less on the fringe, politically, than they used to be.
2.2.2007 1:33am
ed o:
unfortunately, these "fringe groups", like International ANSWER, are the ones organizing these protests. kind of like if the President donned a white hood and spoke at a Klan meeting. while you might claim it went well from a free speech perspective, how about from a human one? if I knew that a large group of my fellow students/community members were actively backing and promoting nazism, I would be concerned and frightened-yet, a large group of students/community members affiliate themselves with an organization that has views, including genocidal ones, that would fit well in 1930's Germany and we are only supposed to be concerned about "free speech"
2.2.2007 10:44am
David W Drake (mail):
Ed O.

I would be concerned too, but I would also welcome the fact that these people's exercise of their free speech rights alerted me to their presence in the community and, I presume, will eventually expose the intolerant extremism of their viewpoint.

Hezbollah supporters, neo-Nazis and LaRouche supporters have First Amendment rights, as do YAF members, and College Republicans and Democrats.

Judging from the article in the Michigan Daily, this is pretty tame by comparison with the late sixties when I was in school in A2, not to mention Columbia, etc., now.
2.2.2007 1:51pm