NEW YORK- The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) is urging the chancellor of the University of California at Irvine to reverse his decision to permit students to wear green sashes glorifying suicide bombings at the universitys commencement ceremony on June 18, 2004.
The sash, or Shahada, is a symbol worn by Muslim extremists as a sign of solidarity with suicide bombers and other terrorists who die while trying to murder Jews. The term Shahada means martyr.
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein, Chairman of the Board Dr. Alan Mazurek, National Executive Committee chairman Dr. Michael Goldblatt, and ZOA Center for Law & Justice director Susan Tuchman sent a letter of protest to UC-Irvine chancellor Ralph Cicerone and vice-chancellor Manuel Gomez on June 15. The letter read, in part:
The commencement ceremony [should] retain and reflect its purpose as a peaceful celebration of achievement and the promise of the future, rather than a propagandist symbol that glorifies, honors and promotes suicide bombings and murder
Students who will be wearing the sashes are openly and proudly promoting their support of the killing of Israelis and Jews, not simply professing their religious faith.
The university let slide the destruction of a Holocaust memorial about a year ago. Nor did the university utter a peep when students were subjected to an anti-Semitic and anti-Israel hate fest three weeks ago The conduct has created a hostile and intimidating educational environment for Jewish and pro-Israel students, which is in violation of the law, and directly contravenes your own universitys harassment policy
[Taking action against the Shahada] would serve as a message to those students who support and promote Islamic terrorism, that such conduct will not be tolerated by the university, and an equally powerful message to all other students that they will be protected by their university from unlawful harassment and intimidation.
On June 16, Vice-Chancellor Gomez replied to the ZOA, with a letter claiming that the wearing of the pro-terrorism sashes is protected by the free speech clause of the First Amendment.
The ZOA leaders responded by pointing out that there is no absolute right to free speech. It is, for example, illegal to make terrorist threats or to yell fire in a crowded theater. Surely the UC-Irvine administration would not permit students to wear Ku Klux Klan hoods or Nazi swastika armbands. Especially in todays environment, when the United States is engaged in a life-or-death struggle against international terrorism, nothing should be done that would even hint at support or encouragement for terrorism.
The ZOA believes that, at the very least, the UC-Irvine administration should publicly condemn the warning of the Shahada sashes, in order to help send a message that sympathy for terrorism is morally wrong.