Suppressing Speech at UC Santa Barbara

May 18, 2011

When David Horowitz speaks about campus anti-Semitism and appeasement of radical Islam at the University of California, Santa Barbara on May 26, it will be against a backdrop of soft censorship and suppression of free speech that has come to characterize the UCSB public square.

The school’s Associated Students (AS) financial board, heavily influenced by the UCSB Muslim Students Association acting in concert with left-wing groups, illegally refused a funding request last week by the College Republicans to fund the event. After a protest by students anxious to hear Horowitz, the AS granted a part of the sum initially requested by College Republicans, but only after encouraging a campaign portraying Horowitz as a racist, Islamophobe, and practitioner of hate speech.

The May 26 speech will touch on themes similar those in a previous Horowitz lecture at Santa Barbara three years ago in which he challenged — without success — students heckling from the audience to denounce the terror group Hamas and its intention to wipe Israel, and all Jews, off the face of the map.

The memory of that confrontation was one factor that led the College Republicans’ request for $2000, for audiovisual and security expenses (and not including an honorarium) to be turned down by the Associated Students board on May 2.  Citing court decisions requiring viewpoint neutrality when student fees are allocated for speakers, College Republicans protested. At a raucous public forum on May 5, the AS approved $1100 for the event.  This amount was then reduced to $800 as a result of a campaign by Islamic and left groups, which also made it clear that they intended to disrupt the event. And then the AS further denigrated the College Republicans’ request by allocating comparable funding for a campus wide “Anti-Hate Workshop” to take place at the same time as Horowitz’s May 26 lecture.

Forcing some student groups to shoulder the burden of security costs when others threaten an event with violence is appropriately called the “heckler’s veto,” and in this case it has produced the same speech-suppression that the AS financial board initially tried to achieve by denying funding of the Horowitz event altogether.  The discriminatory actions of the student board caused the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a non-profit dedicated to protecting free speech on campus, to send a letter warning UCSB chancellor Henry Yang that it was “prepared to use all of our resources to see this…through to a just and moral conclusion.”

The AS funding decisions were heavily influenced by Ahmed Naguib, a Muslim Students Association member who sits on the organization’s financial board.  At the height of the controversy, he told the student paper, The Daily Nexus, “I’m familiar with the comments that Horowitz has made. He incites hate and makes students feel very uncomfortable.” Naguib went on to say that Horowitz had in effect forfeited his free speech rights because he “made several racist remarks about Arabs and accused people of terrorism last time he visited.”  Naguib was supported by another student, Sophie Armen, who presented a doctored video of Horowitz to the board meeting. Others speaking against the appearance were representatives of the UCSB MSA and Students for Justice in Palestine.

As to Naguib’s assertion that Horowitz was guilty of racism and Islamophobia, the 2008 speech shows no such remarks.  In fact, the speech focused on an exploration of Islamic extremism and of the Muslim Students Association’s links, affirmed by the FBI, to the Muslim Brotherhood and its support for terror groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah.  The video shows Horowitz repeatedly asking the numerous self-identified MSA members who confronted him during the Q&A if they would condemn Hezbollah and Hamas. After one evasive response after another, Horowitz was finally able to pose the question in a way that the students could not escape.

“I’ve been waiting for one Muslim in this room to condemn an organization which is sworn to kill Americans and kill Jews,” he said. “That’s not too hard. One. Is there one here?”

After several seconds of silence, one voice shouted, “No!” And some members of the audience, including faculty members, screamed obscenities at Horowitz.

“The campaign against free speech is really the frontline attack of the jihadists. What the Muslim Brotherhood wants is for its critics to be silenced,” Horowitz says.  “Nobody can say anything about Islamic terror or Islamic imperialism without being ruled an indecent person, not worthy of the public square because they’re an Islamophobe or a racist…In the name of tolerance, we have to be intolerant toward all the critics of Islam. That’s the Orwellian formula.”

On May 26, when round two of the battle between David Horowitz and campus apologists for Islamic extremism takes place at Santa Barbara, the same issues as in his last appearance will be front and center—student support for terror groups, hatred of Israel and of Jews, and a contempt for free speech and the open exchange of ideas.

Schools: University of California, Santa Barbara Cases: University of California, Santa Barbara: Viewpoint Discrimination in Student Activity Funding