MI: EVENT BILLED AS SPEECH BY EX-TERRORISTS DRAWS IRE
Although Zachariah Anani is being billed as one of three ex-terrorists who will speak at 7 p.m. in Rackham Auditorium tonight, he said the label doesn’t apply to him.
“I wasn’t a terrorist,” he said. “I was only a militant fighter in a civil war.”
The University’s chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, a right-wing student group, is sponsoring the event. In promotional materials for tonight’s event, Anani, Walid Shoebat and Kamal Saleem are referred to as former terrorists.
“They created this picture,” Anani said.
The event has drawn allegations of hate speech from the Michigan office of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, whose representatives asked the University administration to block it.
Members of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee met with University administrators to voice their concerns yesterday afternoon. But the event will go on as scheduled.
Imad Hamad, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee’s state director for Michigan, said he is worried about the effect this event will have on the public impression of Islam.
“We can’t take terrorists and put them through rehab and make them role models,” Hamad said. “We can’t do extreme makeover on terrorists.” . . .
Hamad questioned Anani’s claims.
“Where is the FBI? Where is the (Immigration and Naturalization Service) to strip his citizenship, as they did with so many others with so fewer allegations?” he asked. . . .
When asked if those radical clerics who advocate violence have an incorrect interpretation of Islam, Anani said, “Unfortunately, no.”
Anani cited an incident in Ottawa during which he said a Jewish girl stood up and defended the Quran at one of his speeches.
“I asked her if she had ever read it and she said no,” Anani said. “I told her, ‘I’ll give you a hundred dollars for every peace sentence in the Quran, and you give me five dollars for every hate sentence. You’ll pay me a fortune.’ “
That’s the sort of message that students like Kamelya Youssef, co-founder of a new University student group called the Arab Unity Movement, oppose.
“It’s not correct,” she said. “They’re giving terrorism a religion. Terrorism is a concept, you can’t put a face or a religion on it.”
Youssef is part of a coalition of student groups planning a walkout during the event.
“We all agreed that this event won’t improve the campus climate with regard to Arab and Muslim students,” she said.
The protesters are planning their own alternative event to take place after the walkout.
Both sides of the issue claim to have the same purpose – to teach people.
“We’re here to educate,” said Keith Davies, director of the Walid Shoebat Foundation, a small Christian Zionist organization that promotes the three speakers and their message. . . .
“They have nothing to say except to spread hatred, division, animosity and hostility against Islam,” he said. “This is a show. They are acting.”