Stanford rally presents peaceful response to controversial speaker
Halfway through a talk at Stanford University on Tuesday by anti-Islam writer Robert Spencer, hundreds of students walked out and staged a rally to peacefully protest against the writer, whose views they see as hateful.
The protest against Spencer was centered on his divisive views and writings, which criticize Islam and Muslims heavily. He is the co-founder of Stop Islamization of America, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has defined as a hate group, and runs Jihad Watch, a blog expressing anti-Islam views.
Spencer was invited by Stanford College Republicans to present and discuss his views on Islam. In an open letter to the Stanford Review, the group expressed why he was invited, and underlined that they have the right to do so.
“We reject all attempts to curtail freedom of speech on this campus, especially with respect to an issue as salient as international security,” members of the group wrote. “Furthermore, we will not let the fact that some students take exception to Mr. Spencer’s views stop us from providing an important educational experience to the Stanford community.”
Many students, particularly those whom are Muslim, said they felt that giving Spencer a platform to speak was dangerous, and were unhappy about the use of university funds (which includes student tuition) to host Spencer.
Doris Rodriguez, senator of Associated Students of Stanford University and leader of the student-run group Students for the Liberation of All People, spoke to the crowd about the responsibility of students to protest.
“As members of the Stanford community, you have two choices,” Rodriguez said. “You are going to decide to be part of the problem, or part of the solution.”
She stressed that students have to stand up against what they see as hateful views.
“We cannot be speaking from a place of fear, and we have to assert ourselves as students,” Rodriguez said. “We didn’t come to Stanford to listen to hate.”