York University should be ashamed of itself for allowing an anti-Muslim author to speak to students at York University yesterday, a group of vocal protesters charged yesterday.
The university's Jewish Federation of Students invited academic Daniel Pipes to give a speech called Barriers to Peace at York's Student Centre, followed by a luncheon hosted by York's Centre for International Security Studies Tuesday.
However, both centres cancelled the events for fear of violent demonstrations, such as one in September at Montreal's Concordia University, where students confronted police and damaged property to protest a visit by former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
York administration agreed to hold the speech at the Tait McKenzie Building instead.
Pipes, director of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum and author of various books including 'Militant Islam Reaches America,' has been described as a racist by York's Middle Eastern Students Association.
Pipes, who runs a website profiling North American university academics he calls Anti-American and anti-Israel, wrote last week in the 'New York Post' that extra scrutiny of Muslims in America "makes sense."
A group of about 100 people, including students from the Coalition for Academic Freedom, held a rally outside the building before Pipes was scheduled to give his speech.
"We are here to tell the university that we don't tolerate racists," said Ali Hassan, president of York's Middle Eastern Students Association.
"Mr. Pipes is not interested in free speech," he yelled through a microphone.
"Shame on York! Shame on York!" protesters yelled as a crowd of people waiting to enter the building looked on. Michelle Oliel, a student who came to hear Pipes speak, said the group of protesters was contradicting its own message by trying to stall the speech.
"What they're calling for is what we want for our own people, which is freedom of speech," she said.
Others like Mark Ross said the protesters' message went beyond that.
"They're argument has nothing to do with freedom of speech. This is anti-Semitism and anti-Israel. What they're saying is they want to suppress what (Pipes) has to say," said the law student.
Despite a heavy police presence, the rally was relatively peaceful, and those who came to hear Pipes' speech had entered the building 20 minutes after his scheduled start.
After that, a smaller remaining group of protesters walked to president Lorna Marsden's office to stage a sit-in.
"I don't believe in racism and I don't believe it should be legitimized in the name of freedom of speech," said Saadia Khan, before joining the march to Marsden's office.
Khan said there should be limits to freedom of speech if it means targeting a group of people such as Muslims, which Pipes is well known for.
"I'm protesting against someone whose views are anti-Muslim and wants to silence everything I stand for.
"We should have the right to practice Islam and if a country like Canada can't allow us to do that, where are we going to go?" she said.