Editor, Daily Nexus,

I experienced two conflicting emotions after attending the UCSB sponsored lecture by self-proclaimed former terrorist Walid Shoebat, titled “Inside Terror Confessions of a PLO Terrorist.” On one hand, I felt a profound disappointment and sadness that a person with such a negative, hateful message can make a living touring respected academic institutions and speaking on major media outlets. Shoebat’s speech, which was bursting with easily refutable half-truths and outright lies, painted all Muslims with a very broad – and very negative – brush. Shoebat directly compares the Muslim community to Nazis, saying that calling him Islamophobic is akin to condemning Winston Churchill as “Nazi-phobic.” This type of rhetoric, which makes no distinction between Osama bin Laden and Cat Stevens, is the type of hate speech that incites attacks against mosques and innocent Americans who “look Muslim.”

On the other hand, I felt extremely proud of our local community here in Santa Barbara. Rather than taking Mr. Shoebat’s message of hate and intolerance at face value, many in attendance – including Rabbi Allison Conyer of the Santa Barbara Hillel – turned the event into an opportunity for understanding and dialogue. If there is one message that those in attendance – and even those who stayed home – should take from this event, it is that hate speech, whether in the form of anti-Semitism, racism, sexism, homophobia, or Islamophobia, is a gravely serious social problem that should be wiped out wherever it is found.