Skip to comments.Saudi Students Praise 9-11 Attack at San Diego State University
Posted on 10/17/2001 4:30:52 PM PDT by Travis McGee
Conversation of three Saudi students about Sept. 11 events overheard in library
By Jason Williams
On Saturday, Sept. 22, Zewdalem Kebede, a political science senior and native Ethiopian, was studying in the Reserve Book Room in Love Library. Nearby, a group of Saudi Arabian students sat talking in Arabic -- a language Kebede speaks fluently, having learned it in his native country.
He was attracted to their conversation when the topic shifted to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"They started talking about the Sept. 11 action," he said. "And with that action they were very pleased. They were happy. And they were regretting of missing the 'Big House.'
"It was a long chitchat."
Kebede tried to continue studying, attempting to ignore the students, but finally he approached their table and spoke to them.
"Guys, what you are talking is unfair. How do you feel happy when those 5 to 6,000 people are buried in two or three buildings?" Kebede said. "They are under the rubble or they became ash.
"And you are talking about the action of bin Laden and his group. You are proud of them. You should have to feel shame."
Kebede spoke to the students in Arabic so as not to disturb others studying in the library.
"I didn't want to spread it," he said. "I didn't want the rest of students to hear it."
Another Saudi student approached from a nearby table and spoke to Kebede in English, asking if he had a problem with the other students speaking in Arabic.
A heated exchange took place.
Kebede told him there was no problem, and the man asked if Kebede was going to threaten them, to which he replied he was not and returned to his table.
After about 30 minutes, two university police officers approached Kebede and asked to speak with him. Kebede related his story of what had occurred.
The officers informed Kebede that he should have reported the incident to them rather than get involved.
"I thought to report it to the police, in order that they follow it and so on, but they would hear my words only, so it is useless," Kebede said.
"It was upsetting. Very upsetting."
University Police said both parties involved in the disturbance were cautioned and statements were taken from one of the Saudi Arabian men and Kebede.
Because the Saudi students are listed as victims in the report and the case is non-criminal, their names cannot be released.
The police report states that University Police responded to a disturbance involving Arab students, that Kebede was contacted and that he understood Arabic.
No specific mention was made in the report regarding what Kebede heard the Saudi students saying.
University Police Crime Prevention Specialist Marc Fox said that it basically boils down to "a free speech issue."
"It's horrific, yet legal," Fox said.
All agencies are operating at a "heightened state" since the Sept. 11 attacks, Fox said, and a background investigation is conducted in any instances resembling a threat to see if a statement was "more than just rhetoric."
Fox said the university routinely networks with off-campus law enforcement, and that this case was passed on to "other agencies," though he could not identify them specifically.
"This case was looked at further," Fox said. "It was not dropped. Let's put it that way."
The case is no longer active with University Police.
On Sept. 27, The Daily Aztec printed a crime brief detailing the verbal harassment of four Saudi Arabian men in the Love Library Reserve Book Room. In the brief, Kebede was described as a "foreign national" who accused the men of being connected to the Sept. 11 attacks.
Shortly before the publication of this brief, Kebede related his experience in the library to his History 514 class during a discussion about the terrorist attacks. Students from the class contacted The Daily Aztec about the inconsistency.
Kebede received a letter from the university's Center for Student Rights, dated Sept. 25, requesting that he set up a meeting to discuss his conduct in the Reserve Book Room. The letter stated that he had allegedly been "verbally abusive to other students" and that he had three days to respond or else face possible sanctions.
The letter also stated that "any student of a campus may be expelled, suspended, placed on probation or given a lesser sanction for: Abusive behavior directed toward, or hazing of, a member of the campus community."
Kebede said he met with University Judicial Officer Antionette Jones on Oct. 3.
"What she had heard previously and what I said to her when I went to give my statement according to the summons is different. She told me what the police officer reported. It was not proper or accurate what she had heard," Kebede said.
Cases handled by the Center for Student Rights are considered private and not made available to the public.
"What have I done to these Arab guys? I have done nothing," Kebede said. "How can they be happy when innocent people just perished? Vanished by the cruel actions of their own brothers.
"It's sad, that's what I told them. Of this am I going to be charged and penalized with a warning or a probation or expelling from school? No, damn. No one would do that.
"I haven't committed any wrong."
In numerous addresses, President George W. Bush has made clear that the war on terrorism is not a war on the Muslim people nor the Islamic faith, stating that Americans should be tolerant and not treat Muslims different than any other American.
Across the nation there have been episodes of hate, some deadly.
University President Stephen Weber entreated students not to give in to and propagate a backlash against international students on campus in an address at the Sept. 13 memorial for those lost in the attacks.
Muslim Student Association President Omar Behnawa has been watching for the backlash on campus, and has yet to see any episodes of hate or anti-U.S. sentiment.
"I have no reason to doubt that it happened," Behnawa said about Kebede's experience. "I'm saying that it's a very sick thing. But I could possibly see that happening."
A decision on the case has since been made, and Kebede will face no penalties at this time, though he was warned in a letter received Oct. 9 that future involvement in "confronting members of the campus community in a manner that is found to be aggressive or abusive" will result in severe disciplinary sanctions.
The letter also stated: "You are admonished to conduct yourself as a responsible member of the campus community in the future."
"I'm naturalized American. I have taken an oath to live to protect this country, so that is my part to do -- for that I am happy," Kebede said. "I am an honest citizen for this country. I showed those guys that there are people who love America, who defend America. That's what I showed.
"Is that a crime?"
One vote for Rule 308.
There's business that needs to be taken care of.
Nothing more will be said.
It's clear that Mr. Kebede is black - so this is clearly a HATE CRIME against HIM. He should report the disdainful nature in which the Saudi students spoke to him, or the way they implied that he should not be speaking Saudi. Obviously they were trying to intimidate him and infer that he, a black Ethiopian, should not speak "their" language. This is a hate crime against Mr. Kebede pure and simple. Let the healing begin...
This has to stop.
I plan to write immediately to San Diego State University and the local papers, but I wonder if we could do more? What about San Diego Freepers organizing a visible show of support, something to get the news media down there...