Faith Leaders Urge Ban on Islamophobic Speakers at UCSD

12:08 - May 18, 2024
News ID: 3488379
IQNA – A coalition of faith leaders gathered at UC San Diego on Friday to call on the university’s administration to do better to address Islamophobia on campus after a student organization hosted a controversial speaker known for anti-Muslim rhetoric.


Mosab Hassan Yousef, a former Palestinian militant and Israeli intelligence undercover agent, was brought to the campus on Tuesday by Tritons for Israel during their annual week-long event, “Peace in Israel Week.” Yousef is known for his fiery and provocative social media presence, where he rails against Islam, the Muslim community and pro-Palestinian supporters with often derogatory remarks.

The collective of faith leaders, which included Islamic, Christian and Jewish clergy, described his presence on campus as an exemplar of a larger rise in Islamophobia spurred by the Israel-Hamas war that has made Muslim UCSD students feel unsafe on campus.

The event was accompanied by an open letter to UCSD administration, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, San Diego City Council and San Diego County Sheriff’s Department expressing concern about the speaker, as well as escalations to pro-Palestinian protests at the campus over the last few weeks.

“We are here to tell the UCSD Administration, the chancellor, that these speakers are not welcome,” said Taha Hassane, imam of the Islamic Center of San Diego. He was one of several faith leaders present at the event. “We differentiate between criticizing ideologies and bashing the entire Muslim community — this is not acceptable.”

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“When you bring such a speaker to campus, he’s going to create a toxic environment where our students cannot feel comfortable,” he continued.

In a statement, UCSD said Islamophobia and antisemitism are not tolerated on campus, while noting that the university cannot moderate speech due to their commitment to the First Amendment, “even when the viewpoints expressed are hateful or repugnant.”

“There is no place for hate, bigotry or intimidation at UC San Diego,” the statement read. “It is our responsibility to foster a safe and welcoming learning, living, and working environment while also promoting the principles of free expression and academic freedom.”

“We take our obligation to uphold the First Amendment seriously,” it continued. “We cannot censor voices or ban groups we disagree with, so long as those voices and groups comply with state and federal laws and with university policy.”

Friday’s gathering comes about two weeks after a global student-led antiwar movement pushing back against Israel’s military operations in Gaza reached UCSD, when a “Gaza Solidarity” encampment was formed on campus nearby Geisel Library.

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Those who participated in the demonstration said they were there to call on the university to divest from Israel and support an immediate cease-fire in the fighting — something they described as an unfolding genocide against Palestinians.

The site stood for just shy of a week before UCSD administration brought in local law enforcement to dismantle it, resulting in the arrest of about 40 student protesters and 24 additional demonstrators. At least two people were injured in the effort.

Since then, student activists have held several follow-up protests, including a walk-out and a rally to observe the 76th anniversary of the Nakba. Hundreds of campus community members have also begun to call for Khosla’s resignation over his response to the encampment.

“We do not believe our students did anything wrong — they just expressed and keep expressing their first amendment right to say whatever they want to stand for their principles and values,” Hassane said on Friday.