Rutgers University last week canceled a speech against radicalism by investigative journalist Lisa Daftari in the face of a growing outcry from student groups who called her views Islamophobic.
But Monday, a Rutgers spokesman told Campus Reform that it had reinvited Daftari to campus earlier in the day and offered four possible dates in November.
The university initially defended featuring Daftari’s scheduled appearance Tuesday as a matter of free speech and an occasion for important debate on the matter of radicalism on college campuses. It then backtracked and canceled the event.
While the university initially didn’t offer a reason for the cancellation, the move came after the Muslim Public Relations Council, the Muslim Student Association, the Latino Student Council, and Rutgers student Adeel Ahmed stirred outcry against Daftari’s appearance.
UAA has received and responded to students, faculty, and staff who have reached out to us about the Speaker Series event next week. Additional details about the event: pic.twitter.com/CwSVSXTy7h
— RutgersUAA (@RutgersUAA) October 9, 2018
Rutgers spokesman John Cramer told Campus Reform that the university has asked Daftari to speak on Nov. 14, 19, 26, or 28.
Cramer quoted a letter sent to the journalist from Ben Sifuentes-Jáuregui, the school’s vice chancellor for undergraduate academic affairs, in which he apologized to her.
“Please know that Rutgers values the free and open exchange of all viewpoints and that you are welcome to speak here,” Sifuentes-Jáuregui wrote, according to Campus Reform.
Ahmed, the Rutgers student, had created an online petition titled “Stop Islamophobe Lisa Daftari from Coming to Speak at Rutgers Paid By Our University Funds,” which garnered over 1,500 signatures.
Members of the Rutgers University Student Assembly, in association with the other student groups, officially denounced Thursday the university’s decision to invite Daftari, who is a first-generation Iranian-American.
The Muslim Public Relations Council also authored an opinion piece in the university’s newspaper claiming that Daftari was an “Islamophobe” who “perpetuates an environment that threatens Muslims and leaves us fearing for our own safety.”
Daftari, an alumna of Rutgers and expert in Middle Eastern foreign affairs who is often featured on Fox News Channel as a political analyst, said the cancellation came as a surprise and that the accusations against her are false. She also asserted that she was never given a chance to respond to the allegations.
“This was very upsetting,” Daftari told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “I was very much looking forward to going back to my alma mater to, ironically, give a talk on freedom of speech.”
“The campaign launched against me was unethical and defamatory,” she said, “and in the end, I didn’t even get a chance to defend these dishonest and slanderous allegations. I was only silenced.”
— Lisa Daftari (@LisaDaftari) October 15, 2018
Daftari also noted the irony of being barred from appearing at an American university while being welcomed to speak as an expert in Washington, D.C., and at the United Nations:
I am a professional whose opinions and expertise are respected across the political spectrum. I give briefings in Washington and am invited to speak at the United Nations on the current turmoil in Syria, Iran, and Iraq.
But here on a college campus, what used to be a place of learning, understanding and acceptance, my vocational accomplishments have been unfairly minimized and dismissed in the narrow and limited scope of today’s trending social justice movements.
Daftari asserted that while Rutgers students protested against her ostensibly in the name of maintaining a tolerant atmosphere on campus, they denied tolerance by silencing her instead of engaging in dialogue.
“This is not progressive or tolerant,” Daftari said. “These are bullies at work.”
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