Muslim members of the University of California, Irvine’s graduating class will wear green sashes emblazoned with the word “shahada” in Arabic along with their commencement robes in Saturday’s ceremony – a reference some say is an incitement to violence that should not be allowed.
“Shahada” can be translated several ways, including as a declaration of faith in Islam, but it often is used in reference to “martyrdom” – especially martyrdom attained by suicide bombers.
Sally Peterson, dean of students at UCI, defended the university against critics who say the school shouldn’t allow such a display.
Peterson admits the word “shahada,” besides being a reference to Islam, “has also taken on many other meanings depending on where you sit. For some it is seen as ‘kill all Jews’ or it is seen as a reference to suicide bombers,” she said.
Despite different meanings applied to the Arabic word, the administrator said UCI is not permitted to limit the Muslim Student Union members’ freedom to wear the sashes.
“This is a public university, and we are not permitted – no matter how offensive the speech – not to allow it or we are violating the First Amendment,” Peterson said, emphasizing, “Just because we support [the students’] free speech does not mean we support the content.”
“It’s clearly a violation of free speech if we do not permit it,” Peterson said. “There has been significant case law to back this up.”
Of 4,000 undergraduates, Peterson said she expects at the most 11 Muslim seniors to wear the sashes.
She says some complainants have said the MSU is a “front for a terrorist organization” – a charge she says highly upsets the students in the group.
Columnist Arnold Steinberg wrote in FrontPage last week that Muslim students at UC Irvine recently wore green armbands to support Hamas, a Middle East terrorist organization.
“The leaders of Jewish campus organizations protested in vain to the politically correct administration, which is (or pretends to be) unfamiliar with Hamas’ charter,” he wrote.
“The MSU also has displayed posters on campus that equate the Star of David with the Swastika.”
Steinberg says Jewish groups have tried to get the school’s administration to take responsibility for what he says are incendiary speeches by Muslim activists.
“Leaders of Hillel and other Jewish groups on campus have requested the administration record the speakers MSU and SAS [Society of Arab Students] bring to campus,” he wrote. “The administration refused their request, even though the guests of MSU and SAS have reportedly called for an Islamic revolution in America and for supporting Hamas in its war against ‘Zionists’ – and Western civilization.”
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