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Muslim Student Union banned on UCI campus

June 14, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Religious rivalry has turned into a free-speech issue at University of California-Irvine. The school has been investigating the Muslim Student Union after a protest at a speech by the Israeli ambassador earlier this year. Monday, the school announced its findings. Both sides call the university's decision to ban the Muslim Student Union unprecedented, but for very different reasons.

Video of the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren's February speech at the University of California-Irvine posted on YouTube shows hecklers in action. Eleven students, all of them members of the Muslim Student Union of UCI, were arrested after repeated warnings to stop disrupting the speech.

After a month-long investigation by the university, the MSU has been banned from campus for a year and placed on disciplinary probation for another year.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations calls the controversial and unprecedented action "heavy-handed."

"What they would be doing is sending a very wrong message that will stifle free speech, not only at UCI but probably on campuses around the country," said Hussam Ayloush, Southern California executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

MSU is appealing the decision. UCI will not comment on the ban or the appeal, saying it is a private and privileged process.

The Jewish Federation Orange County says the university took the right course of action.

"This wasn't a free-speech issue for them. This was a free speech for the Israeli ambassador who couldn't talk because of the coordinated attack," said Shalom Elcott, president of the Jewish Federation Orange County.

The federation obtained a letter sent by the university to MSU saying the group violated numerous school polices, including disorderly and lewd conduct and participating in a disturbance of the peace.

"I'm not really surprised," said Justin Spring, a UCI student. "They've definitely made quite a stir on campus and pushed buttons that people don't like to be pushed."

Many Muslim students call the action unfair, saying they're being punished for the actions of a few.

"To be punished for something that we had absolutely nothing to do with, it just seems like it's not right," said student Samir Shreim.

The university's one-year ban on the Muslim Student Union is set to take effect September 1, but that depends on the outcome of the appeal.


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