MI: PANEL ON TERRORISTS DRAWS CROWD, PROTESTS
ANN ARBOR -- Amid hecklers, an apparent death threat and a staged walkout, a panel discussion by three self proclaimed "ex-terrorists" managed to carry on at University of Michigan's Rackham Auditorium on Tuesday night.
"Yes, we confess we were terrorists, but by confession we can begin to heal," said Walid Shoebat, one of those who spoke at the event marked by outbursts, protests and disappointed students turned away from the auditorium crowded with more than 1,000 people.
The men, who say they committed acts of terror against Jews, were invited to speak by the conservative student group Young Americans for Freedom, which wanted to discuss differences between the extremist Muslims and the vast majority of peaceful Muslims, according to group co-chairman Andrew Boyd.
However, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and at least one expert on jihad have called the men fakes.
"Without doubt, the threat from political extremism is serious, and the threat of homegrown jihadism is growing, but this type of extremist language is as much a threat to stability as a bomb attack itself," said Tom Quiggin, an expert on global jihadism who has researched one of the ex-terrorist's stories.
Shoebat, who is American, was joined by Kamal Saleem, another U.S. citizen, and Zachariah Anani, a Windsor resident. Anani was recently targeted by Islamist groups, which threatened his life if he spoke at U-M, according to his representative.
Shoebat and Saleem say they are former members of the Palestine Liberation Organization, according to their Web site. Shoebat said he participated in acts of terror against Israel and was later imprisoned in Jerusalem.
Anani was a teen militia fighter, where he was trained to kill Jews, according to www.3xterrorists.com. He says he killed 223 people.
Students opposed to the speakers wearing maize walked out of the event midway as a way to symbolically to protest the message. Once the 200 students left, scores waiting outside were refused entry.
U-M freshman Kamelya Youssef, who helped organize the symbolic protest, said if the true intention of Young Americans for Freedom was to improve the cultural climate on campus, then the group should have worked with the Muslim and Arab groups.
"This is something that we feel will provoke discrimination, and this is something that is not going to improve the campus climate," she said. One heckler was removed by police, which led to a standing ovation by the crowd.
Young Americans for Freedom sparked controversy in October when it sponsored "Catch an Illegal Immigrant."