Established in 1975, the Muslim Students Association of the University of California at Santa Barbara (MSA UCSB) aims “to provide Muslim students with a space to share and enrich their Faith, organize events for Muslims and non-Muslims on [the] UCSB campus in order to raise awareness of Islamic issues, … provide accurate information about our often misrepresented Faith, and … contribute support, service, and diversity to the UCSB campus.” The organization is affiliated with MSA West but not with MSA National.
MSA UCSB depicts American Muslims as victims of widespread “discrimination,” “harass[ment],” and “violent attacks” — akin to “what the African Americans and Latinos endured in the pre-civil rights era.
On March 4, 2004, MSA UCSB members loudly and repeatedly disrupted a speech on the Santa Barbara campus by the Italian Muslim cleric Abdul Hadi Palazzi, a vocal critic of militant Islam whom they depicted as an apologist for “Zionism.” One female MSA member asked Palazzi, “If not terrorism, what would Palestinians then do against the [Israeli] oppression?” After the speech, the MSAers ignored Palazzi’s invitation to have them engage in a private, respectful dialog; instead they shouted various slogans and then left the hall. By contrast, Muslim students not affiliated with the school’s MSA were respectful of Palazzi and did converse with him privately.
Several times in recent years, MSA UCSB has participated — along with more than 250 fellow Muslim organizations (mostly chapters of the MSA) — in the annual “Ramadan Fast-a-Thon,” where students eat nothing from sunrise to sundown on one designated day each year. The purpose of this event — which was initiated shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks — is twofold: to “raise money for the hungry and poor,” and to help Americans “increase” their “understanding” of Muslims’ good intentions. Such notables as Sheikh Muhammad Nur Abdullah, Sheikh Abdullah Idris Ali, Imam Zaid Shakir, and Sheikh Hamza Yusuf have endorsed the Fast-a-Thon.
In 2008 the MSA UCSB website featured a section titled “Common Islamic Terms Explained,” which lamented that “the rhetoric about Islam and Muslims has grown exponentially in recent times,” and urged readers “not to settle for the media definition of highjacked [sic] Islamic vocabulary.”
Among the more important terms whose meaning MSA UCSB sought to clarify was “jihad,” which the organization defined as a “struggle” waged to advance “the cause of God,” to “perfect oneself,” to “establish what is just and right,” or to defend oneself physically. Most importantly, said MSA UCSB, jihad is absolutely “not a pre-emptive, antagonizing, or ‘holy’ war.” But Islam experts such as Daniel Pipes, Robert Spencer, Bat Ye’or, and Menahem Milson have explained that, contrary to MSA UCSB’s claims, the form of jihad most central to Muslim life manifests itself as a boldly offensive, permanent war of conquest whose ultimate aim is to achieve Islam’s dominion over the human race at large.
Also in the “Common Islamic Terms Explained” section of its website, MSA UCSB defined “Sharia” simply as “Islamic law based on the Qur’an and the Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad.” No mention was made of Sharia’s mandate that Islam be made dominant over all other faiths; its requirement that non-Muslims be treated as second-class citizens, or dhimmi; its brutal punishments for such transgressions as adultery, apostasy, or homosexuality; its rejection of Western-style secular governments and their legislative processes; and its abysmal treatment of females.
In the “Great Articles from MSA Meetings” section of its website, MSA UCSB in 2008 featured an essay (from two years earlier) titled “Islamophobia,” authored by Professor John Esposito of Georgetown University. In this piece, Esposito defined Islamophobia as a “form of racism … and … intolerance” that “leads to actions beyond destructive words, into hate crimes targeting Muslims, Sikhs and other minorities of Asian and Middle Eastern descent.” Moreover, he cited a 2005 Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) report claiming that the incidence of “harassment, violence and discriminatory treatment” aimed at Muslims had increased by 49 percent since 2003.
But CAIR’s (and Esposito’s) claims were inaccurate. According to a December 3, 2007 Investor’s Business Daily report summarizing the results of an FBI study:
“In 2006, a whopping 66% of religiously motivated attacks were on Jews, while just 11% targeted Muslims, even though the Jewish and Muslim populations are similar in size. … Last year’s  anti-Islamic hate crimes totaled 156 … a 68% drop from 2001. The FBI report gives the lie to CAIR’s alarmist narrative of ‘Islamophobic’ lynch mobs marching on mosques across America.”
When author and social commentator David Horowitz came to speak at UCSB in 2008, he was confronted by approximately 50 members of the school’s MSA, including the organization’s president. When Horowitz asked them whether they would be willing to condemn the genocidal agendas of Hamas and Hezbollah, they refused.
In May 2011, MSA UCSB sought to persuade the university to cancel another scheduled on-campus appearance by David Horowitz, who was slated to speak on the subject of MSA’s anti-Israel agendas. In response to this pressure, the Associated Students Finance Board at UCSB decided to deny funding for security at the event, on grounds that because Mr. Horowitz was a “controversial” figure, such an expenditure would constitute “an inappropriate use of student funds.” At least one member of the Finance Board, Ahmed Naguib, was also a member of MSA UCSB.
Notwithstanding the foregoing efforts to derail Horowitz’s appearance, several private donors contributed the funds necessary to pay for security and thus allow the event to take place. In reaction, MSA UCSB collaborated with Students for Justice in Palestine and other campus groups to organize a competing event which was to be held at exactly the same time as Horowitz’s speech, and whose sole purpose was to stigmatize Horowitz and the College Republicans who had invited him to speak. This counter-event initially was to be called a “Workshop Against Hate,” but the organizers ultimately decided on the title “Respect Coalition.”