University of Florida attempts to ban slogan "Radical Islam Wants You Dead" on film screening flyer
December 5, 2007
By Michael C. Bender | Wednesday, December 5, 2007, 06:48 PM
Delray Beach Republican Rep. Adam Hasner released a press statement tonight demanding an apology from University of Florida Student Affairs VP Patricia Telles-Irvin, pictured below, who had the misfortune of touching the lighting rod that is Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West.
The movie, which some pan as anti-Muslim propaganda, has caused such a controversy at college campuses across the country that some schools have canceled showings. But others have praised the movie for its vivid depiction of Islamo-Fascism: Hasner encouraged fellow legislators to see this documentary this spring.
At the University of Florida, a coalition of student Republican and Jewish groups promoted the flick last week with fliers that read "Radical Islam Wants You Dead." The top of the flier is pictured above.
Some UF students expressed concerns for their safety after seeing the fliers, which prompted Telles-Irvin to send an e-mail to the student body that discussed the responsibilities that come along with free speech. She said the groups that designed the advertisement owed Muslims on campus an apology.
Hasner, right, e-mailed UF President James Machen to say that he disagreed the posters posed an "inherent threat to campus safety."
"According to the administration's view of the world, elements of Radical Islam do not want to kill us," Hasner wrote. "Not only is this view wrong, but it is itself dangerous."
Hasner said that the incident has called into question UF's commitment to free speech. To restore confidence, Hasner suggested a "public reprimand" of Telles-Irvin and a "substantive and enunciated" free speech policy for the school.
According to Hasner's press release, Attorney General Bill McCollum is also involved.
Hasner quoted a Dec. 3 letter McCollum sent Machen saying that the Telles-Irvin's e-mail "may have violated the free speech rights of the students and organizations who posted this ad and sponsored the movie" and "at the very least it has created a chilling effect on the free speech rights of students."
December 3, 2007
Dr. James Bernard Machen, President
The University of Florida
Office of the President
Post Office Box 113150
Gainesville, FL 32611
Dear Dr. Machen:
It has come to my attention that Dr. Patricia Telles-Irvin, the University of Florida Vice President for Student Affairs, sent a letter November 26 to all university students entitled "official response" highly critical of an ad for the showing of the movie "Obsession" which was posted around the campus. A copy of this letter is attached for your reference.
Dr. Telles-Irvin's letter may have violated the free speech rights of the students and organizations who posted this ad and sponsored the movie. At the very least it has created a chilling effect on the free speech rights of students enrolled at the University of Florida. As the Attorney General of Florida, it is my duty to protect the constitutional rights of all Floridians including civil rights and free speech rights. Consequently, I have asked attorneys in my office to review this matter and advise me what if any action this office should pursue. I am writing to request that you review this matter with your staff, legal counsel and the University of Florida Board of Trustees and, if they concur with my concerns, formulate and take some appropriate remedial action.
No doubt Dr. Telles-Irvin was responding in her letter to the sensitivities of the Muslim students on campus. While the Muslin faith should be honored and respected and most practicing Muslims are not radical and not terrorists, the United States has been at war with radical Islamic terrorists since September 11, 2001. The movie "Obsession," which I have seen, describes the nature of our enemy and this war. The headline on the ad for the movie reading "RADICAL ISLAM WANTS YOU DEAD" is one of the messages in this movie and is a true statement of the intent of these radical Islamic terrorists. In her letter Dr. Telles-Irvin says, "regardless of its original intent, the language reinforced a negative stereotype, created unnecessary divisiveness and contributed to a generalization
that only furthers the misunderstanding of the religion of Islam." This may be the view of Dr. Telles-Irvin, but a great many Americans would disagree and argue that it is essential to the discussion and understanding of this war that the terrorists be properly and correctly labeled as radical Islamists who by their very actions clearly want us dead. Students and student organizations who hold this latter view should not be stifled in their free expression of it.
By not only criticizing the ad, but also calling on the groups that posted the ad to apologize, Dr. Telles-Irvin, intentionally or not, has chilled free speech on the UF campus. It may be that her intent with this letter was simply to encourage students when speaking of radical Islamists to put them in context by also making a statement that most practitioners of the Islamic faith are not terrorists and not radical Islamists. But that is not the effect of her letter. And I would submit that when one posts an ad for a movie it isn't practical to expect a "clarification," as perhaps Dr. Telles-Irvin thinks is needed when speaking of radical Islamists.
It has also come to my attention that students and/or faculty tore down most of the posted flyers advertising this movie and that some of those doing so wore hoods. It seems to me that the university should investigate this behavior and prosecute or discipline those who engaged in such conduct. To permit this kind of conduct without an appropriate response has an even more chilling effect on free speech on the campus than Dr. Telles-Irvin's letter.
Your early attention to this matter is most appreciated.
cc: Mr. Manny Fernandez, Chairman, Board of Trustees, University of Florida
Ms. Carolyn Roberts, Chairman, The Florida Board of Governors