Muslim Groups Appalled by 'Irvine 11' Guilty Verdict, Declare Travesty of Justice
(SANTA ANA, CA, 9/23/11) -- Leaders of four prominent Muslim organizations today said they are appalled by an Orange County Superior Court jury's verdict convicting 10 of the "Irvine 11" students on both misdemeanor counts of disturbing a meeting and conspiring to disturb a meeting.
SEE: "UC Muslim Students Guilty of Disturbing Peace" (OC Register)
The students had become a target of selective and heavy-handed prosecution by the Orange County District Attorney's office after nonviolently interrupting Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren's speech at University of California, Irvine, in February 2010. The students underwent confidential administrative hearings conducted by the university, and the UCI Muslim Student Union was penalized with a one-quarter suspension and community service.
Each student has been sentenced to three years of informal probation, fined about $200, and has to do 56 hours of community service.
"It's a sad day for democracy when nonviolent protestors are criminalized by their government and are found guilty for exercising a constitutional right," said Salam Al-Marayati, Muslim Public Affairs Council President. "You can heckle the President, you can heckle high ranking government officials, but if you heckle an Israeli diplomat you will be prosecuted. These are Americans exercising their freedoms. This is a democracy not a dictatorship."
"Justice was jaundiced in case of UCI-11 students and America must worry for its democratic future," said Shakeel Syed, Executive Director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California.
"When history books are written, the 'Irvine 11' will stand alongside other great American civil rights heroes like Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X," said Hussam Ayloush, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations - Greater Los Angeles Area. "They peacefully and courageously stood up against injustice, and they defended our collective freedom of speech. No topic should be off limits and no public official or country should be above criticism. They are true American heroes."
"It is with the deepest disappointment and sadness that we hear the jury's verdict on the Irvine 11," said Khaled Bahjri, President, Muslim American Society, Greater Los Angeles. "The jury decided that the 10 defendants are guilty on both accounts. This is a huge step backward for our American principles of freedom and justice."
Founded in 1988, MPAC is an American institution which informs and shapes public opinion and policy by serving as a trusted resource to decision makers in government, media and policy institutions. MPAC is also committed to developing leaders with the purpose of enhancing the political and civic participation of Muslim Americans.
The Islamic Shura Council is an umbrella organization of Mosques and Muslim organizations serving the Muslims of Southern California. Since 1995, the Council continues to foster the spirit and culture of "working together" at all levels in one of the most diverse and largest Muslim populations in the country.
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
Established in 1993 as a non-profit 501(C)(3) organization, Muslim American Society is a religious, charitable, social, cultural, and educational not-for-profit organization. It is a pioneering Islamic organization that uplifts the individual, family, and society. Its mission is "to move people to strive for God consciousness, liberty and justice and to convey Islam with utmost clarity." Our vision is a "virtuous and just American society."
[CONTACT: Munira Syeda, 714-851-4851, firstname.lastname@example.org; Marium Mohiuddin, 323-258-6722, email@example.com; Shakeel Syed, (714) 239-6473 , firstname.lastname@example.org; MAS, email@example.com]