Muslim groups say ERAU guest spews hatred
By Annie Martin, The Daytona Beach
DAYTONA BEACH — A professor known for his controversial views about Islam and terrorism will field questions at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University this week.
Professor Jonathan Matusitz of the University of Central Florida maintains that “coexistence with Islam is not possible,” citing extremist groups responsible for mass violence, including attacks in Syria and Egypt in recent weeks. In a recent public appearance he said Islam is “a religion of pieces — piece of body here, piece of body there.” He will be discussing his views and fielding questions Thursday night as part of the annual President’s Speaker Series, which covers topics ranging from aviation to education.
Embry-Riddle officials have received a wave of emails over the past few days from people who take issue with his stance. Hassan Shibly, Florida executive director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil liberties group, described Matusitz’s statements about Muslims as “un-American.”
“We do feel it is very irresponsible for the university to give him a platform to promote such bigoted views,” said Shibly, who is a practicing Muslim.
Matusitz “goes on the record demonizing the entire Muslim faith and community,” Shibly said, adding he worried Matusitz’s public appearances could inspire threats or violence against Muslims or people who are perceived to be Muslim.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, along with “a diverse coalition” of Embry-Riddle students, will ask school leaders to withdraw Matusitz’s speaking invitation during a press conference at 3 p.m. Wednesday in front of the Jim W. Henderson Administration and Welcome Center, according to a press release.
But Matusitz called the stir “much ado about nothing.” He’s not opposed to peaceful, cultural Muslims who have no connection to violent groups, he said, and wishes they spoke up more about their beliefs.
“I don’t generate controversy — that same Islamic group (the Council on American-Islamic Relations) is causing the controversy — they’re always the same ones making social noise,” Matusitz said.
He decided to focus on terrorism after Sept. 11, 2001. A graduate student at the time of the attacks, he already was pursuing a career in academia.
“For me, 9/11 is the most significant event in my lifetime,” Matusitz said. “It’s the one that’s captured my attention the most.”
Now a tenured associate professor in the Nicholson School of Communication, Matusitz is the author of the “Terrorism and Communication: A Critical Introduction” textbook. He doesn’t speak on behalf of UCF, which does not endorse his views, spokeswoman Courtney Gilmartin wrote in an email.
Marc Bernier, a talk radio host on WNDB-AM 1150, will interview Matusitz, then open the floor to the audience. Bernier, a special assistant to the president at Embry-Riddle, said he doesn’t reveal his planned questions to guests or the public before his interviews, but he tries to “run a very balanced discussion.” The university isn’t paying Matusitz.
Matusitz and Bernier say they encourage people who oppose the speaker’s views to attend the interview and ask questions. The event starts at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Gale Lemerand Auditorium at the Willie Miller Instructional Center, at Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach campus, 600 S. Clyde Morris Blvd.
Original post: Muslim groups say ERAU guest spews hatred