Middle East studies in the News
A Victory for the Florida College Student Who Stood Up for His Faith
by Gary Lane and Aisha Bascom
CBN News has received word that Rollins College has reinstated conservative Christian student Marshall Polston. Polston was suspended from all classes and college activities after he challenged a Muslim professor's anti-Christian statements.
Maeghan Rempala, Rollins College Director of Community Standards and Responsibility sent Polston a letter today (March 31, 2017) notifying him of his reinstatement saying that " Responsibility has found" that he had not crossed the threshold of violating the college's Code of Community Standards. The letter said evidence presented did show that Polston had been "aggressive, disrespectful and at times vulgar in multiple verbal and electronic communications with faculty, staff and students."
Watch to see this update from Polston and hear what he says about his reinstatement:
Polston made one fatal mistake, challenging his Muslim professor who argued that the disciples didn't believe Jesus was God and that the crucifixion was a hoax. That's when the 21-year-old sophomore at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida said his professor started gunning for him and his troubles began.
"It was very off-putting and flat out odd. I've traveled the Middle East, lectured at the Salahaddin University, and immersed myself in Muslim culture for many years. Honestly, it reminded me of some of the more radical groups I researched when abroad," Marshall Polston told Central Florida Post.
Polston said up till that point he was a straight-A student, but that all changed when his professor retaliated and gave him a 52% on an essay.
"I was upset, understandably. I've never gotten anything less than straight A's," Polston explained. "So, I was really interested in figuring out how to possibly improve or at least understand the grade."
Shortly after, Muslim Humanities professor Areeje Zufari reported Rollins to the "Dean of Safety" claiming she felt unsafe to even conduct class. But The CF Post reports that Zufari gave conflicting statements to the school and police as to why she felt threatened by Polston.
When Zufari resumed classes Polston said he was challenged a second time by a radical Muslim student who suggested a "good punishment for gays, adulterers, and thieves was the removal of a certain body part, as determined by Sharia law."
"It took a few seconds for me to realize that he actually said that, especially after what this community has faced with the tragic loss of life at Pulse," Polston recalled.
The conservative Christian student said the radical statement unnerved him and several other classmates, but it was only his responses that were reported to school authorities, leading to a meeting with the Dean where he was informed that his behavior was making the campus "unsafe."
In an interview with our Gary Lane, Polston provided details of his disciplinary hearing.
"It's really amazing when I got to the school they had five police officers there, they had two investigators, or two detectives and they had campus security everywhere and nothing for the young man who said that it was okay to chop off a hand," he explained.
"They made it clear that they had not gotten a report about what the student said, and were more concerned about the danger I was causing to the campus," Polston said. "What danger? A difference of opinion in a college classroom is nothing out of the ordinary and certainly not dangerous. It was surreal and degrading. The bad grade was upsetting, but they were literally refusing to acknowledge the dangers posed by someone who advocated chopping off body parts on campus."
Last Friday, Polston was alerted in a letter from the school administration that his actions "constituted a threat of disruption," and resulted in a "summary suspension."
"It was really reprehensible that I was shut down for voicing my opinion," he told CBN News.
The private liberal college was in the media in 2013 after kicking the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship off campus for not allowing non-Christian students to hold leadership positons, a violation of the college's anti-discrimination policy. In that same year students were banned from having Bible studies in the common areas of their dorm suites.
Polston told CBN News he thinks Rollins College should have done a more thurough background check on Professor Zufari.
"Her connections to these organizations, her history this was all something they should have known before and I guess they just didn't do due diligence."
Court documents show Professor Zufari was one of three defendants named in a 2007 lawsuit filed by Rosine Collin Ghawji.
In the complaint, Mrs. Ghawji alleged that her estranged husband, Dr. Maher Ghawji and Ms. Zufari "conspired to in effect terrorize" her and their two children.
She claimed that Maher Ghawji told the children "he would be proud if they blew themselves up for Allah because it would be glorification of their lives." The complaint also states that Mr. Ghawji told Mrs. Ghawji that "he would rather see the children dead than them not being fundamentalist Muslims."
The Orlando Sentinel quotes Zufari telling a school administrator, "You know I would almost be laughing if I could summon the humor. In my real life, I'm actually a pretty boring person."
But Zufari's reported ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and radical Wahhabi Islam are no laughing matter.
The 2007 Orange County court complaint includes allegations that Professor Zufari was secretly married to Mrs. Ghawji's husband Maher. Together they traveled to Seattle, Washington to conduct "targeting and surveillance" of American interests.
The Central Florida Post reports Mrs. Ghawji worked for the FBI as "a source for years to inform on her husband's email activity and conversations with contacts in the Middle East."
The CFP says Maher Ghawji "had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and donated thousands of dollars to charities that funneled money to Al-Qaeda."
The Post also reported that Zufari once defended the anti-Semitic statements of Sheik Abdur-Rahman Al-Sudai who appeared on Saudi television saying that "Jews needed to be 'annihilated" and that he referred to Jews as "the scum of the human race, rats of the world, the killers of prophets, and the grandsons of monkeys and pigs."
According to the CFP, Zufari led the effort to bring the Sheikh to speak at a conference in Kissimmee and was also involved in promoting an event with Brooklyn Imam Siraj Wihaj, one of the named co-conspirators in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
CBN News was unable to contact Professor Zufari for comment. She has refused to respond to other media requests.
Rollins College President Grant Cornwell released a statement to the campus community saying, "As an institution of higher learning we value the exploratiion of a broad diversity of beliefs, identities, backgrounds and faith traditions, and welcome those who manifest them in our community."
So, what would Polston like to see happen?
He says the college should reinstate him and Professor Zufari should be dismissed from her duties.
"I think that they realized that they maybe had made a mistake... there are certainly groups I think within every organization in academia today in America that are out on a witch hunt—in my opinion against Christian students like me. "
He still believes that "Rollins is a great school," he" loves it" and would like to continue his studies there.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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