Guest speaker faces protesters
The Council of Ethic Organizations’ Tuesday guest speaker was invited to discuss his experience with freethinking, and he was greeted by a group of protestors located outside the Houston.
Some students were outraged that CEO, an organization whose purpose is to promote culture and diversity, would host Mosab Yousef, a former member of Palestinian Islamic political party Hamas and a person with what they consider contradicting views.
“Islam as a religion in general is a lie wrapped with some facts. I’m talking about this with the authority of someone who understands exactly what Islam is all about, and it’s the biggest lie in history in my opinion, and this is the biggest danger,” Yousef told CBC news.
His perceptions changed after he experienced the violence on both sides of what? and his own incarceration, which led him to become a spy for the Shin Bet — the Israel security agency.
Although Yousef said his purpose wasn’t to speak about religion, his background raised many red flags for concerned students on campus who believe he is an “Islamophobe.”
“While I do not have faith myself, I feel it is a right of any individual to be active in their respective beliefs just as it is a right for a person’s faith to be respected by others and safe from being the subject of slander or ridicule,” said theater sophomore Hudson Davis.
CEO members were concerned with Yousef’s statements.
“He talked about the people on the extreme side of religion and them using it for their own agenda,” said CEO Assistant Director Erica Tat, French and Spanish junior.
“We solely invited him here because he wanted to talk about thinking for yourself and making your own choice.”
CEO President Adriann Hobbs, liberal studies senior, said he felt that while the CBC statement was controversial, it wasn’t the subject of the lecture.
“With this event we weren’t focusing on the religious aspect of the individual, but instead him overcoming a lot of the struggles and situations he went through,” Hobbs said.
The group of protestors consisted of about 20 students from different backgrounds, holding signs that read “No hate at UH” and “Choose love, not hate.”
“The speech he gave wasn’t full of hate, but it just seemed that his background — and with the kind of vibe he brings — it was very unfair that they would do that. There are many other ways to get this message across,” said history junior Abdullah Elasmar.
Many students had expressed their concerns online through the Facebook about the speaker, but CEO members quickly removed the posts.
“One thing we wanted to avoid was if that comment was posted on there we didn’t know who would reply. We don’t want to start a string of political or religious argument,” Tat said.
“That was one of our concerns. I also think we felt like because of the students’ reaction we expected that students might want to protest, and we felt like it would be great to have the face-to-face interaction and hear what the students have to say rather than over the Internet.”
Both Tat and Hobbs stressed to protestors that this speech was not about religion, but about thinking freely and how Yousef overcame the path he was set to follow based off of his upbringing.
Regardless of the subject matter of the speech, Davis said he thinks that Yousef should not have been invited.
“I think that boycotting oppressive speech is of upmost importance in a university setting,” Davis said. “Yes, he has a right to say these things, but in a university setting the focus should not be on how oppressive a certain religion is, but how and why it came about and its cultural significance.”