As everyone in the world should know, the world isn't clear-cut and simple to read. The world is not just black and white. There is no real absolute truth in anything because the issue of what is right and wrong can vary widely between one person and the next. This fact is what makes our world so dynamic; it is what enables us to grow and learn and change. However, because of this blur in what people perceive is right or wrong, or in what someone thinks is one thing and another person thinks is another, there comes conflict.
This idea is poignantly illustrated with issues of free speech. Can one really define where one person's right of free speech begins and ends? If one can, where is that point? And is that point the same for everyone, or does it change? Questions like there are being raised more and more since September eleventh, as can be seen by the case of "Free Speech vs. Campus Security" that is currently going on at the University of South Florida. In my opinion, Professor Al-Arian's rights to free speech, as afforded to him by the first amendment to the constitution, would be infringed upon if the University would vote to let him go because of what he said. Nothing has been decided as of yet, however, should the university decide to let Professor Al-Arian go, they would be violating his first amendment rights of free speech. The case goes something like this: Sami Al-Arian is a tenured associate professor of computer science at the University of South Florida (USF).
On September 26, Al-Arian went on the Fox Network's O'Reilly Factor where is it said that he appeared to be "sympathetic to the terrorist activity such as that which had devastated the World Trade Center and the Pentagon." Following his appearance on the show, Al-Arian he received numerous threats on his life and of violence. In response to this, USF placed him on paid leave of absence sighting they could not guarantee his safety. Later on, the USF had a meeting called with the Board of Trustees. This is where the intention to fire Al-Arian was made by USF President Judy Gen shaft.
This action was made under the premise that Al-Arian's continued presence "would lead to 'disruption' on campus that the university could not tolerate." It seems to me that the university on not so much worried about his safety than they are worried about having a man with unpopular / un -American views on their campus. I have read the transcript of when he appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, and as far as I can see, nowhere during the interview does he say that he supports the terrible acts that happened on September eleventh or similar acts of terrorism. Yes, he supports the movement to free his homeland from Israeli occupation, but he makes it clear that he does not support the violence that has been used. When asked about his speech in 1988 where he said, 'Jihad is our path. Victory to Islam. Death to Israel.
Revolution. Revolution until victory. Rolling to Jerusalem,' he does not deny saying those words, however, given the cultural context, the meaning of those words are different that what we might imagine. Just as we understand that when the president speaks of a crusade against terrorism he is not talking about going into those countries carrying a cross and intending to convert people to Christianity, when Al-Arian says / said "Death to Israel" he means "death to occupation, death to apartheid, death to oppression...
," not death to the people. But back to the issue at hand, what right does the USF have to fire, or even consider firing, Al-Arian for his comments on the O'Reilly Factor? They have none. People might say that he fund raised for terrorist organizations and, because of the threats of violence, he is a safety threat, but those things are beside the point. The point is that the USF is trying to fire Al-Arian for his opinions, no matter what they say. The First Amendment says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." Under this amendment Al-Arian has all the right to express his opinion, no matter how unpopular it might be, without fear of retribution by the government. Therefore, the USF, being a government agency of sorts, has no right to fire him based on his comments on the O'Reilly Factor.
I am not the only one who thinks this way either. The USF chapter of the United Faculty of Florida and Philadelphia-based academic freedom watchdog group Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (Fire) both agree that Al-Arian should not be terminated. Both groups state that this case is purely a free speech case; just as I have said. Whatever one might think about Al-Arian's political and social views, they are just that, his views. Granted, the things he thinks and / or says you might not agree with, but he has all the right to express those views. Whether or not he fund raised for terrorist groups is not the issue.
Whether or not he has or had connections to members of terrorist groups is not the issue. Whether or not he is sympathetic to the sentiments of the people who acted violently towards our nation is not the issue. The issue here is whether or not the USF has the right to fire Sami Al-Arian because what he said: the answer to that is no.