The University of California at Berkeley, in a show of support for the first amendment right of free speech, has shown fortitude in its refusal to cave to strong-arm pressure from Muslim student groups, by reversing a decision to disinvite Bill Maher as commencement ceremony speaker in December.
CAIR-- The San Francisco Bay Area chapter of Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas-linked CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) tonight expressed disappointment at the decision of the UC Berkeley administration to override the rescission of an invitation to Bill Maher by the student group that selects speakers for the university’s commencement ceremonies.
The original invitation to Maher had sparked controversy and calls for him to be dropped as a speaker because of his history of anti-Islam comments.
“We are disappointed by the university’s decision to disrespect students by casting aside the long-standing process for selecting commencement speakers and instead imposing its own will,” said CAIR-SFBA Executive Director Zahra Billoo. “While Mr. Maher has the right to speak whenever and wherever he likes, he does not have the right to have his hate-filled views honored and tacitly endorsed by a prestigious university.”
UC Berkeley statement on commencement speaker
For many years it has been the responsibility of UC Berkeley undergraduates, through a committee known as the “Californians,” to select speakers for the university’s commencement ceremonies. In August the “Californians” chose Bill Maher as the speaker for the December commencement ceremony. However, last night the “Californians” reconvened without administration participation and came to a decision that the invitation should be rescinded.
The UC Berkeley administration cannot and will not accept this decision, which appears to have been based solely on Mr. Maher’s opinions and beliefs, which he conveyed through constitutionally protected speech. For that reason Chancellor Dirks has decided that the invitation will stand, and he looks forward to welcoming Mr. Maher to the Berkeley campus. It should be noted that this decision does not constitute an endorsement of any of Mr. Maher’s prior statements: indeed, the administration’s position on Mr. Maher’s opinions and perspectives is irrelevant in this context, since we fully respect and support his right to express them. More broadly, this university has not in the past and will not in the future shy away from hosting speakers who some deem provocative.
A recent interview on MSNBC about this issue: