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Muslim Students Protest Event's Cancellation

November 10, 2000

COSTA MESA — Muslim students, angered that Orange Coast College officials canceled their "Anti-Oppression, Anti-Zionist Week," staged a demonstration on campus Thursday to rouse support.

While few other students joined in, the free-speech controversy has attracted attention beyond the school. ACLU attorneys have written a letter defending the Muslim students, and Anti-Defamation League officials have taken up the interests of Jewish students offended by the anti-Zionist event.

"I think that freedom of speech is a fundamental right," said Gary Levin, assistant director of the local Anti-Defamation League. "My concern is when freedom of speech becomes hate speech and makes people feel unsafe."

Representatives from the Orange County Muslim and Jewish communities have met with administration officials, hoping work out a solution.

College President Margaret Gratton said Thursday that free speech isn't the issue. The school halted the four-day program only because students didn't follow the rules in setting it up--misleading officials about the program's content and using college letterhead stationery that "improperly implied" the college was sponsoring the anti-Zionist week.

But Usama Kahf, spokesman for the Muslim Student Assn., said school administrators decided to selectively enforce the usually lax rules because they were troubled by the event's anti-Zionist tone.

"We've had many, many events over the past three years, and the school has always been very supportive," Kahf said.

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