Middle East studies in the News
Florida College Exonerates Christian Student Suspended Over Muslim Professor's Complaints [on Areej Zufari]
by Samuel Smith
A Florida college student who claims he was suspended after challenging his Muslim professor's claims about Jesus' crucifixion has been reinstated by the school's administration.
Attorney Kenneth Lewis, who represents Rollins College sophomore Marshall Polston, announced last Thursday that his client received notice that he had been reinstated and will return to class this week.
As previously reported, Polston was placed on summary suspension on March 24 for constituting a "threat of disruption within the operations of the college." In an interview with the Central Florida Post, Polston explained that his suspension came after a number of instances in which he voiced disapproval over something he had heard in his Middle Eastern Humanities class.
First, he claimed that he challenged his professor, Areeje Zufari, who he says claimed that Jesus was never crucified and that His disciples did not believe he was divine. Following this, Polston claims he received a 52 percent on his first essay on March 8.
Polston then emailed Zufari about his grade in which he allegedly told Zufari that she was an "incompetent" professor. Zufari allegedly reported Polston to the dean of safety.
In another class, Polston explained that a Muslim student said that "good punishment for gays, adulterers, and thieves was the removal of a certain body part, as determined by Sharia law." He said that a few people in his class were disturbed by that comment and one reportedly told the FBI.
After that incident, Polston was suspended and given an order to refrain from making contact with the professor. Additionally, the Sentinel reports that Zufari sought a "protection against stalking" from the Orange County Circuit Court.
The Orlando Sentinel reports that court documents show that Zufari had sent emails complaining that Polston had interrupted her class and antagonized her since the semester began. She also reportedly posted on the ACLU of Central Florida Facebook page that Polston had spewed "hate speech" and threatened her in the email over his grade and wanted help in bringing Polston to justice.
However, Polston denies ever making any threats in that email.
"Quite frankly the grade you assigned to me exposes your true agenda which is to silence me in class," Polston was quoted as writing in an email. 'You're one of the most incompetent professors I have ever seen in my life."
The reinstatement letter explains that Polston was "not responsible" for the abuse or behavior his professor charged against him.
After the school formally reinstated Polston, Lewis issued a statement explaining that "a student's freedom of speech and expression are the cornerstones of liberty in a free society."
Additionally, Lewis called for the university to launch a full inquiry into Zufari's actions.
"After a thorough investigation Rollins College has informed my client, Marshall Polston, that he has been officially exonerated from all charges filed against him by his humanity professor Areeje Zufari," Lewis' statement reads. "This decision does not undo the damage sustained to Mr. Polston by these unfounded allegations. He has lived in exile for the past week and will be judged unfairly [because of] Zufari's malicious assassination of Polston's character."
Noor Zufari, the professor's sister, told the Sentinel that her sister is looking forward to getting back to teaching. Zufari also claimed that "fake news" had "sensationalized" the situation.
"The silver lining is Areej can continue her passion of education," Zufari said. "She is looking forward to getting back to her regular class schedule and being able to teach again."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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