Students at the University of Central Florida are protesting the expected appearance of a controversial imam speaking at the university as part of Islam Awareness Month.
Imam Siraj Wahhaj -- who was an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and a character witness for Abdel Rahman, known as the Blind Sheik -- was invited by the Muslim Student Association to dispel misconceptions about the Islamic faith, reports MyFoxOrlando.
But his appearence, scheduled Friday evening, has sparked controversy at UCF --a public university part of the State University System of Florida.
“I’m all for free speech but when I started reading about him, as a conservative, some of his rhetoric can be very dangerous,” said Jonathon Little, Chairman of the College Republicans at UCF.
Wahhaj is an African American convert to Islam and imam of the Masjid Al-Taqwa mosque in Brooklyn, New York. He denounced the World Trade Center terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 but his critics say he remains neutral about Usama Bin Laden and his role in the attacks, MyFoxOrlando reports.
The Muslim Student Association defended its move saying in a statement: “The members of the Muslim Student Association are excited about or future speaker during Islam Awareness Month. Imam Siraj Wahhaj has a long record of being a positive force in our community and has made frequent college visits to encourage all students to live positive lives. We think that once you get a chance to hear his message, you will agree that he is a good choice as our speaker for this important month.”
The Muslim Student Association received $6,500 from the university towards Islam Awareness Month, yet it remains unclear if any of that is being used for the imam's visit. Any student-run group can apply for this type of funding, MyFoxOrlando reports.
The university itself says it supports free speech but does not endorse a speaker’s background or comments.
Some students have said they will go and hear what he has to say. Others say they plan to protest.