Conservative speaker Allen West sparks controversy

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Debate ensues after censorship of ‘radical Islam’ flyer

On Tursday, Sept. 29, Allen West will be speaking at Saint Louis University. West, a conservative activist and retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, was invited to SLU by the College Republicans as part of a speaking program sponsored by Young America’s Foundation.

His visit to campus has stirred controversy. West accused an unnamed SLU administrator of censoring the use of the term “radical Islam” on event flyers and referred to the Muslim Student Association (MSA) as a “stealth jihad radical Islamic campus organization” on his website.

The flyers, designed by College Republicans to advertise the event, were rejected by the administration for using the phrase “radical Islam,” which is to be a topic West focuses on Thursday night. “Allen West’s agency expressed that they would like to brand the event with radical Islam. Radical Islam, referencing people who use the name of Islam to kill or hate others, which is not in any way synonymous with all Muslims,” said Dylan McCloskey, a member of College Republicans.

West took to his website after hearing the news during a radio interview with Curt Schilling, in order to express his thoughts on the matter. In a post entitled, “Folks, I’ve just been CENSORED,” West deems that his freedom of speech is being threatened because his topics do not agree with what he calls a “liberal agenda.”

He continues by writing, “And if this is just a case of ill-conceived political correctness, we’ll rectify that. But, if this is a case of the influence of stealth jihad radical Islamic campus organizations such as the Muslim Student Association, an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood, then you will be exposed.” West followed with a warning to SLU’s President that a radical Islamic organization dictating speakers on campus is not the kind of PR he wants for his university.

Many students have denounced West’s accusations and name-calling. Noelle Janak, a member of Free to {Be}, an intersectional feminist advocacy organization, wrote a Facebook status in regards to West’s comment about the MSA, saying, “No Allen West, they are people. They are my friends. How dare you!” Janak added that free speech and free-flowing expression of ideas are always welcome, but bigotry and hate speech are not. “We will not criticize a group’s right to have a speaker of their own ideological tradition. Our issue is the words West had for our MSA and our students, in that he called them ‘cupcakes,’ a term that would seem to be sexist and homophobic.”

The Muslim Student Association released an official statement through an email. “With our ongoing commitment to the university’s ideals as well as the Oath of Inclusion, we ask the entire SLU community to help support us in our cause to help spread the true meaning of Islam and to create a stronger and safer community at Saint Louis University. And we believe that this individual’s presence does not reflect the commitment to civility and inclusiveness that Saint Louis University espouses.”

McCloskey said that the rejection of the flyers seems like censoring of free speech and that other organizations do not face the same regulations when advertising events.

Dr. Pestello announced on Wednesday that West would be allowed to speak. “As an institution of higher learning, SLU must resist the urge to suppress speech and instead expose all ideas and positions, provocative or pedestrian, to critical scrutiny,” Pestello wrote in an email sent to all students. Calling for tolerance and respect, Dr. Pestello challenged students to adhere to the University’s values, even if guests of the campus do not.

Peaceful protests are to take place in the Center for Global Citizenship during West’s 7 p.m. talk. As a response to West labeling students as “cupcakes,” the Leadership for Social Change learning community will be selling cupcakes at the event, with proceeds going to assist Syrian refugees.