Pace U. threatens Hillel over proposed showing of Obsession



January 9, 2007 — Pace University administrators threatened to sic the cops on a Jewish-student club if it went ahead with plans to screen a critically acclaimed film about radical Islam, the head of the group charged yesterday.

Michael Abdurakhmanov, president of Pace Hillel, said two deans warned that showing the documentary film would implicate club members as suspects in two hate crimes involving the desecration of the Koran at the university’s lower-Manhattan campus last fall.

In addition, Abdurakhmanov said an assistant dean physically restrained him as he attempted to defend the film and his group in a meeting with administrators.

“The message was pretty clear, if you show this film, you’re going to incriminate yourself,” Abdurakhmanov said.

Pace spokesman Chris Cory acknowledged that officials encouraged Hillel to postpone the screening until tensions over the hate crimes dissipated, but dismissed the accusations of coercion as “far-fetched,” “implausible” and “unprofessional.”

Hillel had planned to screen “Obsession” during Judaism Awareness Week in November. The school stepped in after receiving complaints from Muslim students that the film negatively portrayed Islam.

In September and October, copies of the Koran were found in toilets in men’s rooms on the Manhattan campus. Those incidents were followed by the discovery of a swastika scrawled on a bathroom wall and a Hillel event poster.

Abdurakhmanov, a 20-year-old psychology major from Brooklyn, said neither he nor any member of his club had reason to believe they were suspects in the Koran incidents until the dean of students, Marijo Russell O’Grady, suggested it.

“Her words were if you show this film, the police will be looking into your records further,” Abdurakhmanov said.

He added that he knew of no one who had been contacted by the NYPD’s Hate Crime Task Force. An NYPD spokesman declined to say whether there were any suspects in the cases.

In a second meeting with university administrators, Abdurakhmanov claims an assistant dean, David Clark, twice pushed him into a seat when he tried to stand to speak.

Phone messages and e-mails left for the president of the Muslim Students Association, which objected to the film and attended the meetings, were not returned.

“The bottom line is the university never told them not to show the film,” said Cory, the Pace spokesman. “This was a good-faith effort by the deans to mediate between the Muslim Students Association and Hillel.”

January 9, 2007 | 3 Comments »

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  1. Doesn’t surprise me much. This is the same sort of intolerance underlying the protests against the Danish cartoons, the films of the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, and Germany’s showing of Idomeneo. Kudos and praise must go to Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany for bravely going ahead– if after some hesitation– and showing these works of art anyway. Such free discussion is essential in any modern progressive society.

    Also, on a related note, I have some depressing news. A good friend of mine from Florida, Orthodox, was planning to make aliyah a year ago with his family of 6 to Be’er Sheva. He’d scouted the housing, met friends, made his contacts and gotten his family excited about it. Sadly, he’s recently decided to postpone the move, he now says indefinitely. The reason– he says he fears that Israel under Olmert and the US under Bush are both too weak to stop Iran’s march to going nuclear, and he doesn’t want his children to grow up in Israel under the shadow of a nuclear Iran.

    This is what so many of the babbling fools in Kadima and in the US just can’t seem to understand– Iran doesn’t actually have to launch a nuclear weapon to destroy Israel, Iran merely needs to acquire the nuclear weapon. Iran knows the psychological power of a nuke in the hands of the messianic mullahs, that it would both powerfully discourage aliyah to Israel and even drive large numbers of Jews within Israel to emigrate.

    Getting Ahmedinejad out of power would do absolutely nothing to change the underlying dynamics of power– the push to go nuclear has always been from the mullahs and is supported even by “moderates” in Tehran. This wouldn’t change at all if Ahmedinejad were to go– in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the mullahs in fact do decide to push out Ahmedinejad from power, as a ruse to deceive the US and Israel into a false sense of security and blow smoke up the naive asses of “moderates” in these countries who want to appease Iran, even as the mullahs push ever closer to acquisition of a nuclear weapon, probably within about 5 months.

    Israel needs high levels of aliyah from North America to survive as a Jewish state, and thanks to an intensive push from many organizations recently, that’s started to occur. If Iran becomes a nuclear power, this effort is undercut, and the dream of the Jewish state would disappear without the Iranians even having to fire a shot. The Iranians are counting on the leaders of the US and Israel being cowards and appeasers to them, wasting precious time in fruitless and laughably ineffectual diplomacy, like those toothless “sanctions” that Condi Rice recently got through the UN Security Council– so weak and pathetic that the mullahs are laughing at our embarrassing lack of strength. This isn’t a sustainable situation for Israel and our leaders, deep down, are quite aware of it.

  2. Posted by a Phil Orenstein on the Democracy Project web site is the text of a letter from Michael Abdurakhmanov setting out the circumstances surrounding this controversy.

    Dean, Dr. Marijo Russell O’Grady and Mr. David Clark head of the student organizations on campus derserve to be handed their walking papers and before they take their first steps, they should be booted out the door and off the campus grounds. Their behaviour is outrageously disgraceful.

    As for the Muslim Students Association who are angry that the movie Obsession puts Muslims in a bad light, just what kind of light do these Muslim students think all the media reports cast on Muslims when tens of thousands of depraved inhuman evil Muslims have killed thousands of innocents, both Muslim and non-Muslim in the most brutal, callous and cruel way in the name of Islam and who continue to do so as I write? What kind of light is cast on Muslims in the wake of 9/1?

    I could go on, but what is the point.

    If one accepts Abdurakhmov’s recital of the facts and the content of the emails sent him and what transpired during the meeting with both the Dean and Clark and then during the mediation, these Muslims at Pace University have beyond doubt confirmed their anti-Semitic credentials, their victimhood psychoses and their rabidly deranged hateful views of anyone or anything that may conflict with how they want to see themselves, and how the rage they feel is as primal and no different then the Middle Eastern Muslim radicals.

    What Abdurakhmov’s account further proves is that regardless of whether the Dean and Clark are motivated by their own anti-Semtism or just fear of reprisals from these angry Muslim students, they have sided with the Muslim students. For that, regardless of the reason, they deserve contempt and as indicated to be removed far from Pace University to live their lives in oblivion with plenty of time to reflect on just where their anti-Semtism, fear of Muslims and cowardly weakness got them.

    Abdurakhmov’s letter follows:

    November 22, 2006

    �Obsession� Banned at Pace University

    A few days ago I had a distressing phone conversation with Michael Abdurakhmanov, president of Hillel at Pace University. A friend of mine and Pace alumnus had mentioned to me that students were being censored and bullied into compliance at Pace simply for proposing to show the film Obsession at their campus club event. I asked Michael to write up a brief report documenting the events and some good-hearted people concerned about student�s academic rights and the partisan campuses will stand up and join him in the fight. Already Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has contacted us expressing interest in his case and David Horowitz will post his story on Frontpage Magazine. Here is the report he emailed to me:

    I am going to describe two situations that occurred in our school were students rights were suppressed. The first one was with the film �Obsession� and the second is with students who got arrested for a peaceful protest.

    1) I am President of �Hillel�, a Jewish club at Pace University. Part of our �Judaism awareness week� (week long full of events relating to Judaism- Nov 13 � 17th) we wanted to show the film �Obsession�.

    Three weeks before the day of the event I contacted MSA � Muslim Student Association, and notified them that I was going to show the film and have a panel of speakers discuss the film before and after it was viewed. I asked MSA if they would like to collaborate with us on and offered them a chance to bring a speaker of their choice.

    Two weeks later I hear rumors that the Dean, Dr. Marijo Russell O’Grady wants to pull the plug on the film (I was not told of this by the administration until I made the appointment to see them).

    The Dean O�Grady, Mr. David Clark, who is head of the student organizations on campus, and I met one week before the event. About 5 � 10 minutes into our conversation Dean O�Grady �warns� me that because of the recent Hate crimes that were committed against the Koran at our school it would point figures and me and my organization. The police will also get involved and begin to look at my record even deeper.

    The fact is that Hate crimes were committed against the Muslim religion and the Jewish religion but the school only made notice of the Muslim students.

    4 Days later a mediation meeting occurred � The Dean, David Clark, two people from Affirmative Action and two professional Mediators were called. The president and secretary of MSA were present and I was the only one present for Hillel. MSA has sent Hillel several E-mails that were full of anger, and hate not only against us but made direct statements about or Club and what our religion stands for.

    During the mediation MSA spoke first. For about 10min the president of MSA was shouting at me until I finally asked her to stop shouting and that was the only time that the �professional� mediators acknowledged her shouting at me. The six administrators that were present were creating excuses for MSA�s behavior.

    The president was constantly shouting at me and at the administrators, towards the end she cursed twice loud enough for everyone to hear and yet nothing was said to her. But when I tried to speak up in defense of the film and our club I was physically put back in my seat.

    David Clark was sitting next to me and twice he put his hand on my shoulder and pushed me down as a way to silence me. No one from the administration of MSA ever saw the film so they have no way of knowing what it truly is about.

    I offered them the opportunity to view the film and both MSA and the administration have turned it down.

    They didn�t want to hear anything that I had to say because they felt the film would only give the school more bad press.

    There solution was to put on joint events that focus of �eco-terrorism�. With all do respect but Eco-terrorism did not taken down the World Trade Towers, did not blow two busses in London, hold a school hostage in Russia and continuingly killing thousands in Africa�.Radical Islam is the cause and to ignore this and silence those who want to expose this truth is just wrong. When I confronted the Dean about why I was silenced in such a way her response to me was �I am sorry you feel that way�. Its interesting how one group of students gets treated as opposed to another?

    2) The second issue was with a demonstration that occurred Thursday Nov 16th. A group of students at Pace organized a protest against the school. Covering issues of increased tuition, poor student support, and freedom of speech. The students proceeded to come closer to the school and the administration arrested 5 students for trespassing. 18 and 19 year old kids were arrested for walking closer to their own University. The same Dean supported these actions.

    Let me know if you need anymore information of any of these cases. I am willing to go as far as needed for this cause. I feel that the administration has done great wrong against not only me but my organization. Below are the names of the higher administrators of my university.

    President: David A. Caputo, –
    President’s Office at 212-346-1097, email:

    PhD Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs: Joseph C. Morreale

    Dr. Marijo Russell O’Grady, Dean for Students �
    41 Park Row, 9th floor, Room 907; (212) 346-1306/1307; fax (212) 346-1563

    � | Nov. 22, 2006 | 1:51 AM

  3. Advice to Hillel students meeting with Pace University administration officials:

    1. From now on always go wired to these meetings. Record everything!

    2. Call a meeting with the administration. Ask them to put aside at least an hour and then show them Obsession. Should they refuse to watch it, tell them that they will be exposed as anti-free speech, closed-minded bigots.

    3. Acquire their email addresses and send them videos of Bridget Gabriel, etc. Ask them for their candid reactions. Use those reactions by publishing them in every forum that you can – local, city, national, and internet.

    4. Should these emails go unanswered, send them a public letter, released to the press, indicating that you want a fair hearing of the ideas contained in film. Ask for a public forum, not limited to Hillel.

    5. If they escalate their threats, refuse to speak with them without a lawyer being present. Never make another statement, public or private, that has not been passed by a lawyer.

    6. Have a lawyer letter sent to the administration that expresses First Amendment concerns with their restrictive approach. Make that letter public.

    7. Finally, leave the school for a safer setting. Do so publicly.

    The point of “public” is to have these things on the record. Please remember that you are tomorrow’s Jewish History. Everything is archived now. Nothing is lost. Truth will appear through this approach. Your actions will not be lost, though they may seem of lesser importance to you as the pressures on you increase. “Hazak vAmatz” – be strong in body and spirit.

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