By Jonathan Little
Last Friday, Imam Siraj Wahhaj came to speak at UCF. The Muslim Student Association (MSA) invited Wahhaj, and UCF’s Student Government Association funded his trip. After doing some research we found that Wahhaj had quite the controversial past. He was named as an unindicted co-conspirator by a New York attorney in the first World Trade Center attack, and spoke as a character witness in defense of Omar Abdel-Rahman, who was convicted of seditious conspiracy for planning to blow up five major landmarks in New York City, and is currently serving life in prison.
We found out about the speaker a few days before, and after doing the research decided that we couldn’t let our voice go unheard. The head of the MSA said that the whole point of his speech was to clear up misconceptions of their faith, yet they decided to bring someone to campus with ties to very violent men.
Before his presentation our organization, along with some other groups in the area, including ACT! For America and the Florida Security Council, stood outside of the communications building holding up signs voicing our displeasure with the speaker. Our actions drew the attention of the local FOX affiliate, and other news organizations. Our club held signs that were both serious such as “No Student Dollars for Terrorist Sympathizers,” to comical as in “Don’t Stone Me Bro!”
During his speech, Wahhaj came off as very likable and funny, but at times it was almost as if he was begging for people to ignore the things that people have done in the name of Islam. He almost described the religion as nothing more than a slightly tweaked version of Christianity.
Wahhaj also has a history of refusing to condemn the likes of Osama Bin Laden and other terrorists. During his question and answer session we flat out asked him about this fact, and once again he would not even place the slightest bit of blame on Bin Laden. Instead he decided to skirt the question and again try to clear his own name rather than answer the question directly(as seen 30 seconds into the video).
While Wahhaj’s speech was very informative, and I felt like I actually learned a lot, I still have to question the MSA’s choice in bringing him to campus. Through the majority of his speech he talked about how Muslims don’t hate America and most want nothing but peace. I’m not trying to imply anything to the contrary, but if he feels that way I still can’t fathom why he won’t condemn terrorist organizations for their violent behaviors. I don’t see how the MSA can at the same time dispel notions of their religion being violent, while at the same time welcoming a speaker with Wahhaj’s viewpoint on well-known terrorists.
Jonathan Little is a conservative activist at the University of Central Florida