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Is the FBI Harrassing Muslims at UC Irvine?

by: Andrew Davey (atdleft)

Fri May 18, 2007 at 08:40:06 AM PDT

"There was a confrontation, if you will," said UCI Police Chief Paul Henisey, who is investigating the incident to determine if any crime was committed. The students "demanded to know why this person was following them, then the person left," he said.

The incident that the UCI Police Chief is referring to is quite a nasty one. Today's OC Register is reporting that police are now investigating this incident in which a Muslim student is claiming that an FBI agent threatened him. If this is true, then it wouldn't be the first time when federal agents clashed with Muslim students on campus. However, this has already developed into another major headache for Orange County's Muslim community.

Follow me after the flip to see what happened Monday night that caused this new furor...

Andrew Davey (atdleft) :: Is the FBI Harrassing Muslims at UC Irvine?
So what happened Monday night? A UCI economics student claims that he was just taking down a protest wall when a surprise visitor appeared. At the Irvine campus, protesters with the Muslim Student Union erect a wall every day that symbolizes the "apartheid wall" that the Israeli government is trying to erect. However due to university policy on large displays, the Muslim Student Union agrees to take it down ever night. And when the economics student was taking down the wall, something strange happened.

From The Register:

UCI economics student Yasser Ahmed said he was driving a borrowed truck up onto the Ring Road near the library loading dock Monday night, on intending to haul away the wall, when he noticed a silver Ford Taurus with blackened windows following him.

Ahmed said he stopped the truck in view of other campus observers and stood in front of the Taurus, trying to look through the blackened windshield and asking the driver to identify himself. When he would not speak, Ahmed said he tried to take a photo of the car's license plate with his camera phone.

"He could have just rolled down his window and said, 'I'm an FBI agent,' and that would have been the end of it," Ahmed said. "There was nothing improper going on."

Instead, according to Ahmed, the driver revved his engine threateningly and began pushing him backward with the car's front bumper. Ahmed said he then began calling for help, and dozens of other students ran over to assist.

"I was frightened," Ahmed said. "I felt I could have been killed or seriously injured if I hadn't jumped out of the way."

If this is true, then we need to be afraid. VERY AFRAID. Afraid of our own government.

So is this what really happened? Campus police confirmed that the mysterious man was an FBI agent. But why would an FBI agent be at UCI in the middle of the night?

The next morning, Ahmed said, he went to the campus police station and was told by the police chief that the man in the car was an FBI agent.

Ahmed, who lives with his family in Orange County, laughed at the idea the FBI could be investigating him.

Sociology student [Marya] Bangee said UCI's Muslim Student Union opposes violence and its members are not terrorists.

"All we do is speak out against injustice," Bangee said, though she said she believes the FBI has been spying on students.

"We have nothing to hide," Bangee said. "If something illegal ever happened, it might make sense. But nothing ever has. It's complete xenophobia."

Of course, this wouldn't be the first incident when Muslim Americans were harassed for simply being who they were. And this wouldn't be the first time that the FBI was involved in suspicious activities monitoring the American Muslim community. However, it should ALWAYS trouble us when we hear that our government is unfairly targeting and harassing a community simply because of who they are. If these individuals are not involved in any crimes, then the FBI shouldn't be snooping into their lives... And they definitely shouldn't be harassing any one.

So why were FBI agents on the UCI campus Monday night? And why were they driving around the Muslim Student Union's protest wall? And if the FBI agent in question truly did attempt to ram down the economics student with his car, why did he feel that he had license to do so? I thought that these agents were supposed to enforce the law. When our government suddenly begin breaking its own laws?

Oh yeah, I almost forgot.

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MSA very confrontational at UCI (0.00 / 0)
I am not going to condone the way the FBI is handling things at UCI.  But I do know enough about the situation at UCI that I'd recommend treating this with an open mind.

I'm a former board member of the Santa Cruz Hillel Foundation, which is a community board that works to fund and supervise the Hillel (an organization for Jewish university students), and have been following the general "climate" for Jewish students at the various campuses in California.  At many, and perhaps most campuses, including UC Santa Cruz, there are groups on any and all sides of the I/P debate.  The debate can be acrimonious, but students are focused on their differences of opinion.  While there are plenty of people in the Jewish community who will complain about "anti-semitism" just because there are groups hostile to Israel, most people involved in supporting campus Hillels don't see things this way.  People can and do disagree about I/P.  The solution for speech that people in the Jewish community that disagree with anti-Israel actions and opinion is and should be "more speech". The same holds for the other side of the line.  And that's fine.  University is a place for conflicts of ideas, opinions and politics.  And as long as things are peaceful, the more the merrier.

This emphatically is not the situation at UCI.  UCI has developed the kind of reputation that San Francisco State had ten years ago:  a place where a Jewish student can feel physically threatened (I mean that literally: threats of violences, students getting roughed up, etc.), and where on occasion where the staff of a Hillel has needed to coordinate with campus police in order to get Jewish students out of some situations without anyone getting hurt.

There is a world of difference between doing demonstrations of your political beliefs -- as members of the Moslem Student Association have every right to do -- and throwing your weight around in such a way that campus police are required to prevent physical harm to students.  The Hillel staff are dealing with this kind of situation at UCI right now, and no one should be making light of it.

Being able to express your opinions is not at all the same as giving sanction to thugs.  Some of the MSA students are pushing the envelope as to what is allowed at UCI, and at some point, this ceases to be an issue of free speech, and becomes an issue of public safety and a problem for local law enforcement.

That's harsh, but that's the situation right now.

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