Rutgers backtracks on support for speaker accused of Islamophobia
NEW BRUNSWICK — A day after a campus organization defended inviting a Rutgers graduate and Middle East expert who has been accused of being an "Islamophobe," Rutgers University has postponed the appearance by Lisa Daftari.
Daftari, a 2002 Rutgers graduate born to Iranian Jewish parents, was originally scheduled to speak on Tuesday and as part of the Rutgers Undergraduate Academic Affairs (UAA) Speaker Series. She is founder of the website The Foreign Desk and a frequent contributor to the Fox News Channel.
Student Adeel Ahmed posted a Change.org petition calling for the cancellation of the event, saying she is an "unapologetic Islamophobe" for her comments to the Heritage Foundation. Ahmed also objected to "university funds" being used to fund the speech.
The petition provides just a single example of what the student considers Islamophobia.
“Islamic terror takes its guidance and teachings from the Quran, which is Sharia law," the petition quotes Daftari as saying. “When you go to the mosque and you’re part of a community, and you want to feel important and relevant, and want to give back to the cause — [ISIS] recruits you. You say I can be an ISIS wife.”
Rutgers spokesman Neal Buccino would not disclose a reason for the postponement. He said Daftari was paid $5,000 as a speaking fee from a privately endowed lecture fund.
In a tweet Daftari called Rutgers "cowardly" and said she was told the event was canceled. Rutgers has not set a new date for the Daftari to appear on campus.
She told the Jewish Journal she feels like her name has been dragged through the mud and the accusation of being an "Islamophobe" as being "slanderous and unethical.”
The Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) approved a bill on Thursday denouncing Dartari's appearance, according to the Daily Targum. RUSA chairwoman Jhanvi Virani said that Dartari's comments made members of the Muslim community feel marginalized and unsafe.
The RUSA also passed a resolution asking Rutgers to be more transparent about university task forces and committees.
Daftari 's speech was to "focus on free speech” and facilitate a conversation around the question “how can we use our college campuses as a place of learning, thinking, and leadership rather than violence, hatred, and radicalism," followed by a Q&A session, according to he UAA.
The UAA earlier this week defended inviting Daftari, writing on Twitter: "We invite a variety of speakers to campus with varying backgrounds and professional expertise. Our events are structured to allow all participants to engage in conversation, voice their points of view and generate a public debate about important issues."
The did not comment on the postponement.