My Take: Muslims should lay off the victim card
A screen shot from a website supporting the Irvine 11.
October 1st, 2011
05:00 AM ET

My Take: Muslims should lay off the victim card

Editor’s note: Aman Ali is a New York-based writer, stand-up comedian and the co-creator of 30 Mosques in 30 Days, a Ramadan road trip across America.

By Aman Ali, Special to CNN

The Irvine 11. Nope, it’s not the 37th installment of George Clooney and his gang of crackerjack criminals trying to pull a con job on a California casino owner.

Instead, the “Irvine 11” are of a group of Muslim students in California who were found guilty last week of disrupting a speech at the University of California Irvine by Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the United States.

One by one, the students disrupted Oren’s speech and shouted at him over his support for Israel. They were subsequently found guilty by an Orange County jury.

To paraphrase, the students pulled a Kanye West and told Oren “Yo Michael, ima let you finish, but the Palestinians have one of the greatest rights to statehood of all time.”

That’s why I’m having trouble wrapping my shiny bald head around this case.

Most Muslims will say we’re sick and tired of only talking about ourselves in a post-9/11 context  as victims of oppression. But I feel like in a subconsciously sick and twisted way, we secretly enjoy playing the victim card.

I know I’m guilty of it.

Anytime I fly at the airport, in my mind there’s a part of me that wishes a TSA agent will grope me or take forever to search through my bags so I can call up one of my friends with an awesome story like “BRO! You’re not gonna believe what just happened!”

The more I learn about this Irvine 11 case, the more and more I keep getting vibes this is another example of Muslims playing the victim card.

Once these students were arrested, immediately the case went viral. They called themselves “The Irvine 11” and several Muslims formed campaigns to rally in their support. There’s even a banner on the Irvine 11 campaign website drawn in a style of staging some kind of Latin revolution. "Viva La Irvine!"

What irked me the most though was this photo taken of one of the students after the trial, where he’s clenching a peace sign in the air to build some kind of solidarity with the Irvine 11 supporters.

Dude, you got a misdemeanor and were sentenced to community service. You’re not Nelson Mandela.

Even funnier, one of the 11 students took a plea deal to avoid a conviction. So technically we’re only talking about 10 students here. Irvine 11 is false advertising. I want my money back.

Of course, it’s completely bogus for these students to face charges, let alone be found guilty, on protesting a speech. Even if it’s a misdemeanor charge. It’s a slap in the face to the First Amendment and this case should have never entered a court room.

But I refuse to deem these students as some kind of political prisoners. Look at the name Irvine 11 for example. I’m assuming it was inspired by the name for the Little Rock Nine, a group of Black students in Arkansas who were barred from entering a racially segregated school in the 1950s, an event that helped ignite the Civil Rights Movement. To even try to associate the Irvine case with Little Rock is insulting.

These students will do no jail time for what they did and will probably get a year of probation and around 60 hours of community service, according to reports.

On the Irvine 11 campaign web site, supporters are asking people to pray for the Irvine 11. For what, the community service they have to do? “Oh Allah, please protect these students from running bingo night at the senior citizens center.”

I’m not trying to be insensitive or even remotely imply these students deserve the legal punishment they were slapped with.

But just because they have a legal right to free speech, does that give them the ethical right to stomp out the ambassador’s right to free speech?

Regardless of what the students feel about Michael Oren, the university invited him there to speak as a guest and the students barged in on that. And according to evidence released by the Orange County prosecutor’s office, it appears these students had several e-mail discussions and meetings to plan their protest. One of the e-mails even implied they’re fully aware they could get arrested.

I'm not saying they should not have exercised their right to protest. They should not be surprised at the consequences, especially since they discussed them.

Think of it like this. When I was 9 years old, my 3-year-old little brother was intent on placing his hand on the kitchen stove. He was well aware it would burn his hand but he didn’t listen. He cried like an idiot pretending to be shocked that the stove could be so hot. So it’s hard for me to be join La Irvine Revolucion’ when it seems like it didn’t have to happen to begin with.

All I’m saying is, let’s calm down and not blow this case out of proportion.

It’s a terrible thing that happened to these students, but let’s place it into perspective of all the racial and religious injustices that have happened around the country.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Aman Ali

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • California • Muslim • United States

soundoff (151 Responses)
  1. Sweet!

    Thanks Aman for giving Brigitte Gabriel and other Islamophobes some traction their claims that Muslims are using the victim card too, this was a really clever article. Sweet! [heavy sarcasm] http://dailycaller.com/2011/12/15/cair-and-its-friends-play-the-victim-card-attack-lowes/

    December 15, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  2. trxsuspension

    Hello. everyone.
    would like to make new friends with you guys.

    November 28, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  3. She

    Really people. Humble are those who laugh at themselves in good humor. And the US is the nation of nations. Thats the best part. Most of us arent from here. BTW got to love that SUN worshiping hippy. You seem to be someone who reads more than one book.

    November 4, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  4. Inappropriate

    I thought it was terribly inappropriate to mock prayer (dua/supplication). Not funny at all.

    October 13, 2011 at 9:51 am |
  5. This article undermines our community

    Now every time there is a crisis in the community and Muslims speak on it, we're accused of "playing the victim". A recent editorial I was reading stated, "In other words, as Aman Ali writes for CNN’s Belief Blog, maybe it’s time for U.S. Muslims to quit playing the victim card?" http://blog.beliefnet.com/beliefbeat/2011/10/could-american-muslims-take-a-page-from-the-book-of-mormon.html.

    Thanks Aman for opening the door, so others can bash Muslims too.

    October 10, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
  6. Iman

    I thought this article was genius and i ended up getting a good laugh at it.

    October 7, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
    • Muhaideen

      What you said is very sad Iman. There is nothing funny about it, it's a pathetic article by Aman. He has no clue and neither you about the reality of the Israeli brutality or actually it's called fascism. What the Irvin 11 did was only interrupting that fascist ambassador, which is every body's right, but alas no one is allowed to criticize Israeli in the U.S. of America.

      January 28, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
    • Khadije

      Spot on, Iman.

      Actually Muhaideen, just because a person disagrees with you or does not confirm your percieved victim role, does not make them sad, pathetic or wrong. If you can argue your case without personal attacks, then you are lost, mate. Get a grip. The Quran says God will not change things for believers, until they change themselves from within. When will you start? Pr perhaps Allah is pathetic too according to you? Aman Ali has made a valid point. When I came across this case and researched both sides, I felt their disrupting a meeting like this, was wrong. Why not do that when they attend lectures where radical preachers speak and aggrevate situations. They would be shown to the door immediately and threatened in no time. Protest all you like. Speak all you like. But there is a time and place. Similar behaviour at a Muslim gathering would not be tolerated either. Let the guy speak. Don't trample over other peoples right to speak while claiming freedom of speech. Thie victim role has to end

      March 16, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  7. Muneef

    How long has this "Diaspora" been going on into the Muslim world pressurizing them to immigrate to where they have no weight or measurement...! ?! Aren't they by that victimized twice "One's by their own and the second by the host countries...!?!

    A diaspora (from Greek διασπορά, "scattering, dispersion")[1] is "the movement, migration, or scattering of people away from an established or ancestral homeland"[2] or "people dispersed by whatever cause to more than one location",[3] or "people settled far from their ancestral homelands".[2]

    The word has come to refer to historical mass-dispersions of people with common roots, particularly movements of an involuntary nature, such as the forced removal...
    Recently scholarship has distinguished between different kinds of diaspora, based on its causes such as imperialism, trade or labor migrations, or by the kind of social coherence within the diaspora community and its ties to the ancestral lands. Some diaspora communities maintain strong political ties with their homeland. Other qualities that may be typical of many diasporas are thoughts of return, relationships with other communities in the diaspora, and lack of full assimilation to the host country.[3]

    In all cases, the term diaspora carries a sense of displacement; that is, the population so described finds itself for whatever reason separated from its national territory, and usually its people have a hope, or at least a desire, to return to their homeland at some point, if the "homeland" still exists in any meaningful sense. Some writers[who?] have noted that diaspora may result in a loss of nostalgia for a single home as people "re-root" in a series of meaningful displacements. In this sense, individuals may have multiple homes throughout their diaspora, with different reasons for maintaining some form of attachment to each. Diasporic cultural development often assumes a different course from that of the population in the original place of settlement. Over time, remotely separated communities tend to vary in culture, traditions, language, and other factors. The last vestiges of cultural affiliation in a diaspora is often found in community resistance to language change and in maintenance of traditional religious practice.


    October 6, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
  8. Muneef

    Size: 29.6 MB
    Expires: November 4, 2011 4:41:00 AM PDT


    October 6, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
  9. Muneef

    And We send down of the Qur'an that which is healing and mercy for the believers, but it does not increase the wrongdoers except in loss.

    Sahih International
    And [for] every person We have imposed his fate upon his neck, and We will produce for him on the Day of Resurrection a record which he will encounter spread open.17:14

    [It will be said], "Read your record. Sufficient is yourself against you this Day as accountant."17:15

    Whoever is guided is only guided for [the benefit of] his soul. And whoever errs only errs against it. And no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another. And never would We punish until We sent a messenger.17:16

    And when We intend to destroy a city, We command its affluent but they defiantly disobey therein; so the word comes into effect upon it, and We destroy it with [complete] destruction.17:17

    And how many have We destroyed from the generations after Noah. And sufficient is your Lord, concerning the sins of His servants, as Acquainted and Seeing.17:18

    Whoever should desire the immediate – We hasten for him from it what We will to whom We intend. Then We have made for him Hell, which he will [enter to] burn, censured and banished.17:19

    But whoever desires the Hereafter and exerts the effort due to it while he is a believer – it is those whose effort is ever appreciated [by Allah ].17:20

    To each [category] We extend – to these and to those – from the gift of your Lord. And never has the gift of your Lord been restricted.17:21

    Look how We have favored [in provision] some of them over others. But the Hereafter is greater in degrees [of difference] and greater in distinction.17:22

    Do not make [as equal] with Allah another deity and [thereby] become censured and forsaken.17:23
    Sahih International
    The seven heavens and the earth and whatever is in them exalt Him. And there is not a thing except that it exalts [ Allah ] by His praise, but you do not understand their [way of] exalting. Indeed, He is ever Forbearing and Forgiving.17:45

    And when you recite the Qur'an, We put between you and those who do not believe in the Hereafter a concealed part-i-tion.17:46

    And We have placed over their hearts coverings, lest they understand it, and in their ears deafness. And when you mention your Lord alone in the Qur'an, they turn back in aversion.17:47
    Sahih International
    And We have certainly honored the children of Adam and carried them on the land and sea and provided for them of the good things and preferred them over much of what We have created, with [definite] preference.17:71

    [Mention, O Muhammad], the Day We will call forth every people with their record [of deeds]. Then whoever is given his record in his right hand – those will read their records, and injustice will not be done to them, [even] as much as a thread [inside the date seed].17:72

    And whoever is blind in this [life] will be blind in the Hereafter and more astray in way.17:73

    October 5, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
  10. Ibrahim

    When I was at UC Berkeley in 1986 and took a class called PACS (Peace and Conflict Studies) 119, Palestine, one of the lecturers was an Israeli 'apologetic'. so called because they realize the unjustness of the situation and think that the Palestinians should also have a state and that Israel should freeze/remove the settlements. He was interrupted numerous times by students from the pro-Israel organization on campus who disagreed with what he said. They were escorted out, end of story, no criminal charges. I was appalled that this would happen at UC Berkeley, the home of the 'Free Speech' movement. You wanna talk about the victim card, try the Israelis. Pretend to be our friends and recruit Jonathan Pollard to spy on us.

    October 5, 2011 at 9:02 am |
    • steveinmo

      Fine, but if you and your people were truly honest with yourselves Ibrahim, you'd admit that the ONLY stumbling block in the way is the fact of the arab nations swearing to not stop until Israel is removed from the face of the earth. Once that's done, then there are no more excuses or hurdles.

      As for you being appalled or surprised of that coming from Berkeley? There's no point low enough that school won't lower itself to put out its garbage. Probably the absolute worst school in this country, bar none.

      October 6, 2011 at 9:36 am |
  11. Dee

    The point here bro, is that there were similar cases where individuals conducted similar actions BUT were set free, understand this-that because these students were Muslims is why the case even went this far. I understand your frustration, but I think you are the only one who wants to play the victim card and that's why your article sounds like this lol. I feel bad for you. Who are you to judge anyone's intentions?? NO ONE.

    October 4, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
  12. a muslim

    but jewish people, black and latinos can play the victim card???

    October 4, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
    • Imaan

      But nobody but you claims that.

      Can you really not try and stay within context and address the specific issue of the article rather than adopt this victim role.

      March 16, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
  13. hippypoet , the prophet


    October 4, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
  14. Joker

    Manner problems? USA? Islam?? Immigrant?

    No changes!!! they are uneducated beings.

    October 4, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
  15. amadni

    what a sad response to the Irvine 11 case.
    sorry mr. Ali, whether you deem what they did as ethical or unethical, they're actions were UNDESERVING of such charges, let alone conviction. Also, you "assume" that they are trying to be compared to certain civil rights activists of the past, your assumptions are unwarrented and also baseless. No one said they are the same, or even close to it, but we did say that the spirit and intentions are the same of past events. check yourself sir. And as for your claims about the community service, no that is not at all what we are upset about. in fact the irvine 11 accepted that sentence, not as a punishment but as yet another oppurtunity to add to the already great amount of community service hours they have done without anyone forcing them to. what we do not accept is a guilty verdict. get with the program. also you might wanna be a part of the campaign to do community service WITH the irvine 11, check it out on their website, if thats not admirable, encouraging the entire community to take part in serving the community, then i dont know what is. but i do know that putting down your fellow american citizens who also happen to share your faith and have done absolutely nothing illegal is definately not admirable.
    congrats on making known to everyone how you stand with injustice.

    October 4, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.