In one of the most contentious university events of the year, conservative activist David Horowitz will present the UCSB student community with his perspective on the Muslim Student Association tonight at I.V. Theater.
Horowitz will deliver a lecture on “Infantile Disorders at UCSB: Why the Muslim Students Association is Afraid of David Horowitz” at 7:30 p.m., though doors open at 7 p.m. In opposition to the right-wing writer’s appearance, a collection of student clubs that comprise the newly-formed UCSB Respect Coalition will host an alternative event, “Empowering Our Voices,” tonight at 8 p.m. across the street at Embarcadero Hall to promote dialogue on racial, religious and cultural tolerance.
According to UCSB College Republicans President Steven Begakis and Vice President Matt Borasi, Horowitz will discuss his allegations of ties between the MSA and the Muslim Brotherhood as well as a campus tendency to exhibit a left-leaning bias.
“He’s going to talk about what he called Islamofascism, the terrorist activities of certain governments [and] the ideology of certain governments in the Middle East that are oppressive of the human rights of the people within that state or that are attacking Israel,” Begakis said.
Horowitz said he hopes to advance a discussion with audience members about appropriate, non-aggressive means of voicing opposition.
“I hope, with the experience of last year and this year, this anti-democratic, anti-intellectual behavior by the Muslim Student Association, by the Students for Justice in Palestine and this quarter’s student government will be a lesson for other students on campus as how not to behave,” Horowitz said.
Tonight’s lecture, Horowitz’s second appearance at UCSB in four years, has sparked a nearly month-long debate between various sectors of the campus community. College Republicans, who are hosting the talk, sought $1,770 from Associated Students Finance Board on May 2 to subsidize the event’s costs. After the board denied their request due to controversy surrounding the lecture, Legislative Council allocated $800 for the event’s security costs amid adamant protest from MSA members.
Their actions were unconstitutional in nature because University of California student governments are required to fund at least the security costs for events, Begakis said.
“I think that they were breaking the law in doing that,” Begakis said. “I think it’s sad that we just expect that A.S. is going to break the law when the event is conservative. I think that’s pretty common on UC campuses.”
On the other hand, A.S. Finance Board Chair Katie Lieberknecht said the board could legally deny funding to any campus organization’s financial request.
“There is no part of our Legal Code that says we have to fund anything,” Lieberknecht said. “The rules concern what we cannot fund.”
MSA Co-President Ahmed Naguib said the council’s partial funding was justified by the necessary distinction between freedom of speech and hate.
“Denying the right of someone to come and speak is different from denying funding for someone’s right to speak,” Naguib said. “Now my student fees are going to support a speech that will create tension on campus.”
According to Begakis, however, the council preaches tolerance but refuses to practice it.
“It’s hypocritical; they say they’re trying to defend every group on campus, every minority,” Begakis said. “We’re a minority political group on campus. They believe in a diversity of skin color — we believe in a diversity of opinions.”
Horowitz last visited the campus in April 2008 and was greeted with much resistance from the campus community. Many students felt that Horowitz was comparing Muslims to Nazis and associating MSA with al-Qaeda.
Horowitz said he made no such claim.
“What I said was that the Muslim Student Association was created by the Muslim Brotherhood, which is a fact,” Horowitz said. “The Muslim Brotherhood teaches or proselytizes a particular form of Islam, which is ‘kill Jews, kill the Americans, kill the infidels and establish a global Islamic state.’”
UCSB Respect Coalition spokesperson David Kornahrens said Horowitz expressed a right-wing viewpoint of the world based on outright lies.
“He’s saying things that are demonstrably false and saying them to incite a reaction,” Kornahrens said. “He has an opinion that, the way I would phrase it, is a distortion of the facts and his logic is tenuous at best. Other people in our coalition would call it hate speech.”
Moreover, Naguib said Horowitz purposefully made racially and ethnically discriminatory claims during his last appearance in order to spark an adverse reaction.
“I feel like he’s interested in creating a scene and bringing publicity; he doesn’t provide facts,” Naguib said. “The claim that the MSA and Muslim Brotherhood are linked is one of his main points. He asked students to condemn Hamas and Hezbollah — that’s trying to instigate someone.”
Horowitz said he was suspicious of students’ resistance to answering his questions.
“In the course of the speech, there were about 10 members of the Muslim Students Association and I asked them … ‘do you condemn Hamas as a terrorist organization?’” Horowitz said. “Not only is it a terrorist organization, but it was sworn in its charter to destroy the state of Israel, but also to kill Jews. And none of them would do it.”
Communication professor Walid Afifi said he attended Horowitz’s 2008 lecture intending to invite the activist to a discussion panel with Middle Eastern scholars, but left after Horowitz asked an audience member why he was wearing a terrorist headscarf.
“The things he says and the format he says them in is destructive,” Afifi said. “I would welcome an actual conversation on the role religious organizations play on campuses, … but what I don’t invite is the fact that he’s got the pulpit and he’s directly accusing students.”
The UCSB Respect Coalition, which consists of 60-80 diverse religious, ethnic and ideological student groups — including the MSA, Students for Justice in Palestine, American Students for Israel and Queer Student Union — formed two weeks ago in response to Horowitz’s slated appearance.
The coalition’s alternative event will consist of a discussion panel featuring black studies professor George Lipsitz, religious studies professor Richard Hecht, global studies associate professor Paul Amar, A.S. Associate Director for Media Elizabeth Robinson and religious studies Ph.D. student Elliott Bazzano. Students for Justice in Palestine member Noor Aljawad and American Students for Israel Vice President of Political Affairs Daniel Melnick will also speak.
Kornahrens said the coalition decided against protesting the lecture, as the group is trying to take the victims out of the equation.
“If you know a serial killer is on the loose, you can’t get killed by him if you don’t leave the house,” Kornahrens said.
A.S. External Vice President of Statewide Affairs Ahmed Mostafa said MSA was only one contributor to the movement behind “Empowering Our Voices.”
“It’s very much David Horowitz versus the UCSB community, in a way,” Mostafa said. “There’s something to say about American Students for Israel and Students for Justice in Palestine joining together. It’s not about Horowitz coming to campus; it’s about attacking the fabric that connects the two groups.”
Although Horowitz said he hopes the alternative event will “attract all the emotionally overworked babies who cannot handle disagreement,” he claimed that event organizers “cannot stand democracy.”
“The event has two agendas,” Horowitz said. “One is to attract students away from my speech so they won’t hear me talk because they’re terrified of the truth. The second agenda is to smear me and to defame me. It’s a witch hunt. They hate me. I haven’t tried to shut down their event. I didn’t even call them names.”
Furthermore, Horowitz said he’s being victimized by the Muslim Students Association.
“There was a time when I could walk onto a campus like a normal person,” Horowitz said. “But when I come … the university understands that there is a security problem — that is, people could get hurt. Now who’s going to hurt them? It’s leftists. It’s the MSA, it’s Students for Justice in Palestine, it’s the campus left. They’re the threat. They’re the people who obstruct speeches; they’re the people who make security necessary. It’s a threat because the left is driven by hate and anger and emotion and they’re not thinking.”