Rutgers University officials confirmed to PJ Media Friday morning that they “decided to postpone” a talk on religious radicalism after more than 1,600 students signed a petition demanding the school axe an upcoming talk.
Lisa Daftari, an investigative journalist who focuses on foreign affairs, was slated to speak at Rutgers on October 13. But after a petition racked up more than 1,500 signatures, Rutgers officials decided to disinvite her.
“The university will continue to go forward on events that reflect a wide variety of perspectives,” the Rutgers University spokesman told PJ Media, but declined to answer if they planned to postpone the talk indefinitely or simply reschedule.
Created by student Adeel Ahmed, the petition “Stop Islamophobe Lisa Daftari from Coming to Speak at Rutgers Paid by Our University Funds” demanded that Rutgers officials disinvite Daftari, whom he claimed is an “an unapologetic Islamophobe.”
“Sign this petition to tell the university that we will not have this bigot come and speak at Rutgers,” wrote Ahmed. “We will not have our hard-earned tuition dollars be spent for bringing this bigot to speak at Rutgers,” he added.
As a member of Rutgers Student Government, Ahmed leveraged his network to spread the petition. It initially racked up 1,000 signatures within 24 hours with one student claiming in the comments that Daftari spreads “Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian rhetoric.”
Reached by PJ Media, Daftari expressed disappointment.
“There has been no talk of a future date. Rutgers University canceled the talk,” she told PJ Media at 4:48 p.m. EST. “This was the school’s decision. Very upsetting. A dishonest and slanderous attack against me and a big loss for free speech.”
When asked if she agreed with the assessment that she was an “Islamophobe,” she replied, “My professional work speaks for itself. I have spent over a decade defending human rights, women’s rights, religious persecution and terrorism in Muslim countries.”
“I have given briefings in Washington under Republican and Democrat administrations and am invited to speak at the United Nations on the current turmoil in Syria, Iran and Iraq.”
The Rutgers students who demanded her talk to be cancelled are simply “bullies with baseless claims,” said Daftari.
“Because of my knowledge on the Middle East and its nuances, I have always differentiated between Muslim people on the one hand and political and radicalized Islam on the other. This [cancellation] is just absurd and unjust.”
Rutgers Young Americans for Liberty president Andrea Vacchiano, 21, said the petitioners seem to have “taken Daftari’s comments at one [Heritage Foundation] event out of context.”
“Rutgers betrayed its purpose as an academic institution by surrendering to a group of students who spread lies about Daftari and took her comments out of context,” Vacchiano told PJ Media Friday evening.
PJ Media reached out Adeel Ahmed, who launched the petition prior to Rutgers ultimately canceling Daftari’s speech. Ahmed said he was willing to call, then asked for a day to think about his responses, and ultimately never got back to PJ Media.
But he did make one public comment about his reasoning. “I support free speech but my tuition dollars are not gonna be spent in bringing her here — someone against our values as a university.”
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen.