CAIR wages cultural jihad against CW Post students for spoof hostage video - firings and community service ensue
February 9, 2007
Muslim leaders condemn CW Post video
February 7, 2007, 10:12 PM EST
A video by five students at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University depicting ski-masked "hostage-takers" speaking in cartoonish Middle Eastern accents has drawn condemnations from local Muslim leaders.
The university dismissed the students from their jobs as residence hall assistants in Brookville Hall, saying they had engaged in activity that violated their employment contract and that reflected "insensitivity."
In the video, which mocks those aired by real-life terrorists, five figures speak in exaggerated accents as they threaten their captive, a rubber duck dubbed "Pete," according to an account in the student newspaper that knowledgeable campus sources agreed was accurate. The subtext is understood to many on campus: The duck is the mascot for Brookville Hall.
While friends of those who created the film amphasized it was made in jest, Muslim leaders did not see the humor. They acknowledged students' right to freedom of speech, but said that right carries responsibility.
"I think it's not a prank," said Ghazi Khankan of Long Beach, a member of the board of the American Muslim Alliance, which he described as a regional and national group that advocates for Muslim participation in the political process. "Campuses are for enlightenment and for teaching us to get along, to respect each other, to know how to live together."
News of the video quickly went national. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil liberties and advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., sent out Newsday's Web article about the incident in an e-mail blast. Said Ibrahim Hooper, council president: "It's something that needs to be addressed."
Habeeb Ahmed, president of the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury, who said he was a C.W. Post alumnus, agreed. "People are testing the waters again and again, and the Muslim community is always at the receiving end."
Back on campus, provost Joseph Shenker, said the five students involved would continue to receive free housing and the meal plan -- but in exchange for working 10 hours per week in community service.
Student employees must "function as role models and as teachers for the other students," Shenker said yesterday. "We expect them to be instructing our students on being sensitive regarding all groups.
"I think the tape was an insult to the victims and families involved in hostage situations," he added.
The college, which has about 8,500 undergraduate and graduate students, could not provide a breakdown of Muslim students on campus.
The video, which was posted on YouTube and Google -- then taken down -- came with a statement indicating that it was done "all purely as a joke of course."
Meanwhile, the five students, all seniors -- Robert Bennett, Bert Estrada, Dustin Frye, Jordan Marmara and Billy McDermott -- are to face a formal campus hearing, either later this week or sometime next week, Shenker said. He declined to speculate on what disciplinary action could result.
The students have hired civil rights attorney Frederick K. Brewington of Hempstead, who said he felt the college's actions were unfair.
The affair apparently also cost Brookville Hall's residence hall director, Kristin Kielczewski, her job. She did not respond to a message seeking comment.
McDermott, 21, of Ocean City, Md., said yesterday that Brewington had advised him and the other fired student resident assistants not to comment beyond saying, "We're getting our ducks in a row."
Danny Schrafel, the Pioneer student newspaper editor-in-chief, said the administration's actions have split the campus into two camps: People who believe the resident assistants were fired unjustly and those offended by the video.
Matthew Bartlett, 19, a freshman from Clifton N.J., who lives in Brookville Hall, called McDermott "a great guy.
"I'm pretty appalled by what they [the administrators] did because I don't think it's fair. It's our right as students to express ourselves. We're in college."
Frank Schlegel, 21, of Westhampton Beach, a senior in marketing, said he has had all five of the students as an R.A. during his nearly four years in Brookville Hall.
"I thought it was hysterical," said Schlegel, who said he had seen the video. "There's no way it can be seen as these guys are being racist. It was strictly made for entertainment. They're not troublemakers of any sort."
Michael Colon, of Westchester, 19, a freshman biology major, said he started a petition supporting the R.A.s on Monday. So far, he said, he has 80 signatures.