News Column

Islamics Say UCF Professor Promotes Hatred of Muslims

June 21, 2013

The Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations is accusing a UCF professor of teaching anti-Muslim bigotry.

Officials with the group sent a complaint to the University of Central Florida asking it to review the content of professor Jonathan Matusitz's courses.

Matusitz, 36, has taught several communication classes at UCF, including one called Terrorism and Communication and another on intercultural communication. He wrote a book titled "Terrorism & Communication: A Critical Introduction" that was published last year.

The council points to a YouTube video of Matusitz as an example of his sharing "Islamophobic" views with students that it says are inaccurate, biased and over-generalized. UCF says that video, which appears to have been taped in a classroom, actually features an "outside-of-the-classroom presentation" that took place in January.

UCF spokesman Grant Heston said the school has received no complaints from students or Matusitz's colleagues about his work.

In the video, Matusitz stresses the link between terrorism and Islamic culture. He also suggests countries should resist the global spread of Islam.

"Why do so many Muslims, relative to other religions, want to kill us?" he asks in the video. "The answer is easy, very easy. It is seven letters: culture."

He also explains that Islam cannot be changed.

"How can you change a movement in which you have 1.5 billion members? It's impossible," he says. "We just have to resist it and just elect people who are willing just to resist it and just be true American. That's the only answer. We're not going to change Islam."

Heston said Matusitz was not speaking on behalf of UCF, which does not endorse his views.

At this point, the university is not reviewing the professor's lessons or work at UCF.

"Dr. Matusitz expressed his opinion, which is his right," Heston said.

Matusitz, who was given an award by UCF last year for outstanding performance, could not be reached for comment for this article.

But Thursday, he appeared on a South Florida radio show to talk about being "disinvited" to speak at a Republican Party event in Pinellas County earlier this month. He said his speech, which was to focus on the Islamic threat to America, was canceled partly because party members considered the topic too "sensitive."

Matusitz said on the show that he refuses to be "politically correct just to please everybody."

"I think that in academia, I'm sure a lot of people don't share my views," he said. "But I also think that a lot of people share my views, but they're not as open as I am."

The state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations worries that UCF students are being led to believe that all Islamic societies are violent and create terrorists.

"His blatant disregard for distinguishing between terrorists and the Muslim population as a whole is disturbing," the group wrote in the letter it sent to UCF.

The letter is signed by two other organizations: EMERGE-USA, an advocacy group for underrepresented communities such as Muslims, and I Am Choice, an equal-rights advocacy group.

In another YouTube video, Matusitz shares his negative opinion of Islam during a recent panel discussion on U.S. national security.

He cites a statistic that indicates the vast majority of victims of terrorism were victims of Islamic terrorism.

"So when my colleagues tell me that Islam is a religion of peace, I tell them that Islam is a religion of pieces: piece of body here, piece of body there," he says in that video.

Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the national Council on American-Islamic Relations, said he does not understand how a publicly funded university such as UCF could allow a professor to promote such hateful views.

The group also takes issue with Matusitz's connection to a national group called ACT! for America, which promotes anti-Islamic views.

dordway@tribune.com or 407-420-5470

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