Imam Amir Abdul Malik Ali believes the United States government is an oppressive regime and wants the students of today to revolt.
Ali, who is associated with the Masjid Al Islam mosque in Oakland, presented his thoughts on an American culture of corruption and what students should be doing in response, in a talk called “Politics of Ghettoization.”
“There are certain things [the government isn’t] telling us about. They want you preoccupied with drugs and sex. They know as soon as youth join a movement, the show is over … Don’t underestimate the power you have as students,” Ali said.
Student Activists United (SAU), a new social awareness group on campus, invited Ali to speak. Over 120 people attended the lecture at 26 Wellman on Tuesday night.
Waleed Rajabali, SAU president and senior sociology and psychology double major, said the event was aimed to promote the message of solidarity and unity.
In anticipation of anti-Semitic comments for which Ali has been known for, between 30 and 40 Jewish students attended the event. However, Ali did not address any lingering Arab-Israeli issues until provoked by questions from audience members.
In response to a question, Ali said he supported Hamas – a Palestinian political group – and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, words that spurred mixed reactions from the crowd.
“You don’t advocate the feelings, concepts and opinions of those who oppress,” Ali said. “That’s what the struggle is about. I don’t think [Hamas and Ahmadinejad] are bad people because they are fighting against oppression.”
Hunter Launer, a junior neurobiology, physiology and behavior major who attended the event, said that Ali made some interesting points leading up to the Q&A session but questioned the motives of the group that brought Ali to speak.
“SAU is about social awareness – was it necessary to bring someone who supports terrorism to talk about injustice?” Launer said. “I don’t know if that’s building any bridges toward solidarity.”
Zahida Mubeen, a junior Middle East/South Asia studies major who was also present, said the value of listening to Ali is that he speaks out against oppressive regimes and the fact that he does this is the only reason he is criticized.
Ali’s talk was less about world politics – although he did reference former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarark’s recent fall from power – and more about challenging students to become activists and hold their government accountable.
Specifically, Ali encouraged a stronger reaction from UC students over the recent systemwide fee hikes. He said it was bold for the UC Board of Regents to vote on fee increases while on a UC campus.
“They are challenging you to see what you are willing to give up,” he said. “You will have to shut it down.”
MAX ROSENBLUM can be reached at email@example.com.