Amir Mertaban at UC-Irvine

Amir Mertaban

Tuesday evening, Muslim activist Amir Mertaban spoke at UC-Irvine. Another guy named Mohamad Ahmad was supposed to appear, but he didn't show. Mertaban is a young activist who was previously an offical for the Muslim Student Association-West when he was attending Cal Poly Pomona. He is a native of the region around Israel-Palestine and lives in LaVerne, California. His parents were originally from Lebanon. He operates a Muslim radio show (with Ahmad) called Why Islam and makes numerous speeches. He is an engaging speaker, and last night, his topic was the history of Jerusalem and the Israel-Palestine region, which, of course, he described from the Palestinian perspective. (Do I need to go into all that?)

Of more interest is the fact that a questioner repeatedly tried to get him to answer whether he supported Hamas and would he condemn the Hamas charter (you know, driving the Jews into the sea and all that stuff.) Initially, he repeatedly said he would not answer those questions because they were "rhetorical/loaded questions". Only later did he turn to the questioner and state that he abhorred it when Hamas killed innocents, but that he supported the good works that Hamas performed like building roads and things like that. As to the charter, he stated that in his opinion, many in Hamas were ignoring the inflammatory parts and that those parts were becoming irrelevant.

My question referred to the opening statement of the MSU moderaters during the week that insisted they were not anti-Semitic in criticizing Israel, which I applauded. I informed them that 10 years earlier, an MSU-sponsored speaker, Imam Mohammed al-Asi had stood at UCI and stated that there was a "psychosis" in the Jewish community which prevented them from livng in peace and harmony with others and that "you could take a Jew out of the ghetto, but you could not take the ghetto out of the Jew". I asked Mertaban if he considered that comment to be anti-Semitic. He answered, "Yes, absolutely."

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