Ryan Chartrand

If America is seen as the land of free speech, then its colleges are seen as the foreground for some of the most important, heated, controversial and bizarre speech. One of the greatest things about our colleges is that on paper, they are designed to protect free speech in nearly all forms. For instance, it’s protected for someone post fliers of direct quotes from the Quran that show what some radical Islamists take literally. For example, Surah 9:29: “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” (Translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali.)

Even if someone were to stomp on a Hezbollah or Hamas flag in the University Union, I know that Cal Poly would respect their right to do so. Or would they? Certainly, if someone were to desecrate an American flag (burn, stomp or rip up), no college administrator would care less. The right to desecrate an American flag is a right currently protected under the First Amendment and has been firmly upheld by the Supreme Court.

However, desecrating a Hezbollah or Hamas flag, which incidentally has Allah’s name on it, is obviously no different. It’s not like those organizations are special. Sure, Hamas and Hezbollah are both listed as terrorist organizations by the United States and have condoned the destruction of the Israeli state. And yes, Hamas deliberately attacks Israeli civilians with suicide bombers and has a charter that states, “There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad.” Certainly by burning these flags, someone would bring “awareness” (a word that all collegians love) to the terrible destructiveness of these organizations. Of course, doing this might “upset” certain folks in our country, say, those who support terrorism, dislike Israeli civilians or love that an abnormal distorted flavor of diversity.

While no one has stepped on, burned, or desecrated a Hamas or Hezbollah flag in our University Union, several students stepped on them at San Francisco State as part of a demonstration. These activists, all members of the College Republicans, were holding an antiterrorism rally when they desecrated the flags.

This symbolic action, which is similar in nature to someone stomping on a swastika (which ironically represents an organization very similar to Hezbollah and Hamas, i.e. both are evil organizations and both are not very fond of Jews), represents what college activism is all about. Campus administrators should have praised the event for its diversity of thought and its renunciation of evil.

However, this did not happen, and instead, SFSU administrators have launched an investigation into the College Republicans on campus. The administration accuses the College Republicans of inciting a riot, creating a hostile environment and incivility. Of course, the College Republicans weren’t hostile at all, and there wasn’t even any real violence, only some upset leftist college students. In response, both the American Civil Liberties Union (shocking yes, ACLU and Republicans on the same side) and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education have stepped up to take the case and are pressuring SFSU to drop the charges.

While many college students are just in college for the ride or the party, a great many of us are preparing ourselves to change the world. At Cal Poly (like most colleges), we have many clubs that try to raise awareness about the current problems in our world; why, we even have a designated Change the Status Quo weekend that comes with matching T-shirts. However, changing the world means seeing it for what it is. Perhaps we could start with acknowledging that there is a form of Islam that wants to destroy Israel and America. Just maybe we could also ignore those who would have you believe that we “deserve” this destruction for our support of Israel and freedom. Finally, maybe we could start believing in a foreign policy that triumphs democracy and freedom, without apologizing for it and actually seeing it as a good thing. If something similar to a flag desecration were to happen at Cal Poly, I hope the administration would stand up for free speech, despite a recent history where they have not.

Brian Eller is a materials engineering junior and Mustang Daily political columnist.

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