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Witch-hunters claim new victim

January 4, 2002 | Page 2

THE WITCH-HUNT against Arab Americans reached a new stage in December when the University of South Florida (USF) fired computer science professor Dr. Sami Al-Arian.

After the September 11 attacks, Al-Arian appeared on Fox News' O'Reilly Factor, where right-wing host Bill O'Reilly branded him a "terrorist." The evidence? Al-Arian was investigated by the Justice Department six years before, though the feds found no evidence of wrongdoing.

Yet thanks to O'Reilly's "guilt-by-association" slander, Al-Arian was targeted for hate mail and death threats at USF.

Administrators suspended him with pay. But that wasn't enough for the board of trustees. In late December, the board met on less than 24 hours' notice to take up a proposal to fire Al-Arian. Neither Al-Arian nor his lawyers were allowed to attend, and none of his supporters could speak.

Meanwhile, as one person who attended the meeting described it, "The Board chair repeatedly referred to Dr. Al-Arian as a terrorist, implying that he was responsible for recent events in Israel."

Al-Arian was fired on the grounds that his presence--not anything he ever did or said, but his mere presence--was "disrupting university operations."

"Professors have the right to say things that are unpopular," sleazebag Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said in a statement supporting the decision. "But they do not have the right to disrupt the life of a university…The taxpayers have no obligation to continue paying a teacher whose own actions have made it impossible for him to teach."

Of course, Al-Arian never did or said anything to deserve this injustice. But witch-hunting bigots like Jeb Bush don't care about the facts.

Contact USF President Judy Genshaft at (813) 974-2791 or [email protected] to protest Dr. Al-Arian's dismissal. To find out how to get involved with the Campaign for Academic Freedom, visit academicfreedomnow.org on the Web.

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