Reprinted from Santa Barbara News-Press.
It all comes down to defending freedom of speech, conservative activist and speaker David Horowitz told a theater full of students Thursday night at UCSB.
“The First Amendment is absolutely the foundation for all your other rights,” he said. “If you don’t have the ability to express your dissent, in as fair a way as possible, to reach other people, then you can’t defend any of your other rights.”
In spite of controversy that swirled around his appearance, Mr. Horowitz addressed a respectful crowd of more than 400 in Isla Vista Theatre 1 with a presentation titled, “Infantile Disorders at UCSB: Why the Muslim Student Association is Afraid of David Horowitz.”
He addressed how liberal bias on campus stifles free speech, as well as the threat of radical Islamist and the National Muslim Student Association’s ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Mr. Horowitz called out the university’s faculty, Associated Students and administration, all of whom he said fought to suppress his right to express views they disagree with.
Opposition to the appearance began as soon as the visit was proposed. Students stated that Mr. Horowitz’s statements constituted hate speech and his presence made them feel uncomfortable.
During his last visit to UCSB in April 2008, Mr. Horowitz challenged members of the Muslim Student Association to denounce Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations, which it would not do, according to Mr. Horowitz.
The original MSA was founded in 1964 by a group with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist organizations, but Elliott Bazzano, the group’s spokesman, said the UCSB MSA was not the original and is not formally affiliated with the national MSA.
The group touts its autonomy from the National Muslim Students Association, Mr. Horowitz told the News-Press, but members recently attended the national MSA conference where they heard from an imam who supported the destruction of the Jews.
Mr. Horowitz presented a different idea of “hate acts” on Thursday night, describing the radical Islamist mission of wiping out America and annihilating Israel.
Yet for all the cries of racism and hate speech he has received for speaking on the threat of radical Islam, Mr. Horowitz said, the real hatred is that of the Arab states in the Middle East against Jews.
While thousands of Muslims live in Israel, enjoying the same rights as Jews, no Jew could live in an Arab country without fear.
“And that is a hate act,” he said.
The reason the leftists on campus fear him, Mr. Horowitz said, is because they have no answer for him.
“If you don’t have an answer, it’s best to try to stop the person asking the question,” he said. “But every one of your rights is threatened when a speaker like myself, when an attempt is made to shut me down.”
Students attending Mr. Horowitz’s lecture defended his right to express his views in the proper setting, regardless of people’s feelings about those views.
“Anyone should be allowed to say practically anything,” said junior John Collado. “I’m all about freedom of speech.”
During Mr. Horowitz’s talk, a group that formed in opposition to his visit held their own event, “The Alternative: Empowering our Voices,” on free speech and hate speech, diversity and the campus climate.
The UCSB Respect Coalition, composed of the MSA, American Students for Israel, Queer Student Union, and more than 60 other campus groups, met across the street to discuss diversity and emphasize the need for empathy along with free speech.
Students wore buttons that said, “I Stand Against Hate.”
They filled Embarcadero Hall to capacity, packing more than 250 students in to hear from a panel that included Elizabeth Robinson, the Associated Students’ director for media; Mr. Bazzano, MSA spokesman and doctoral student; Rabbi Evan Goodman, director of Santa Barbara Hillel; George Lipsitz, a professor of black studies at UCSB; and Paul Amar, an associate professor of global and international studies.
Some students told the News-Press they came because they were curious about the opposition to Mr. Horowitz, while others said they came for extra credit. Still others came in solidarity with the coalition’s message of diversity and tolerance.
Ahmed Mostafa, the external vice president for the Associated Students, said he felt the event was “absolutely incredible,” and that the unity between such diverse groups who may otherwise disagree was a testament to what the campus can do.
Max Samarov, secretary of American Students for Israel, agreed, saying the groups supported real dialogue.
“The MSA doesn’t deserve the way it was attacked, at all,” he said.
“The Alternative” was intended to promote dialogue, something speakers claimed was absent from Mr. Horowitz’s talk. It was also intended to teach students how to defend themselves against hate speech.
Matt Borasi, vice president of the College Republicans, said the College Republicans chose Mr. Horowitz precisely because they hoped his talk would provide an opportunity for students’ views to be challenged, as well as for them to challenge the speaker’s views.
“He represents a minority ideology that’s not represented on campus,” he said. “He also sparks controversy that encourages people to talk about those ideas.”
* Frontpage thanks our new cartoonist Amir Avni for the graphic representing this article. Amir graduated from Sheridan College with a Bachelor of Animation Degree in 2010 and was awarded a Certificate of Merit by ASIFA-Hollywood in 2009. He is currently finishing his Master’s Degree.