Free Speech Under Fire

An appearance by a speaker listed as “an unindicted co-conspirator” in the World Trade Center bombing at an event held by the Queens College Muslim Students Association has shaken the campus as much as any recent event.

Sirah Wahhaj, the imam of the At-Taqwa Mosque in Brooklyn, was asked to give a talk about Thanksgiving.

In 1993, he was linked to the bombing by U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White but was never charged or indicted. The Bloomberg administration said it regretted participating with him in a roundtable held with religious leaders to discuss Muslims being targeted following the Fort Hood shooting.

The Queens College Republicans are outraged and asked the college to stop funding the Muslim association.

While we condemn Muslim extremists, the university is a place where freedom of speech should be sacred. This means allowing the discussion of the most repugnant ideas. The line is drawn when a speaker advocates violence. As far as we know, the imam did not do that but condemned the Fort Hood violence.

Free speech can get ugly, but the college was right to allow this speaker. The campus Republicans should not forget there are colleges in America where radicals have succeeded in shutting down speeches by conservatives.

Hard Times

On Black Friday, thousands of Queens shoppers stood in line to take advantage of holiday sales. Online, there were stories about people willing to pay $100 or more for the hottest item of the holiday.

Meanwhile, the food pantries that feed thousands of borough families are telling reporters their cupboards are nearly bare. The director of the Hour Children pantry in Long Island City said that for the first time in 22 years she did not have a turkey to give out.

It is estimated that the number of families seeking food has increased this year by 33 percent. The largest increase is in families with children, followed by senior citizens. More than 60 percent of Queens food pantries said in a survey that they did not have enough food to meet demand.

It is unthinkable that in Queens a child or senior citizen should go hungry. We are confident if the people of Queens knew the seriousness of the situation, they would help.

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