UNC-Asheville faces pressure to disinvite pro-Farrakhan Women's March speaker

A Jewish student group at the University of North Carolina-Asheville has denounced the university for inviting Women’s March leader Tamika Mallory, who has defended Nation of Islam founder Louis Farrakhan, as a speaker.

Farrakhan has compared Jewish people to “termites” and characterized Adolf Hitler as a “very great man.” Mallory, who is scheduled to speak during UNC-Asheville’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Week on Jan. 24, has worked with the Nation of Islam and praised the minister, but noted she does not agree with “everything” he has said regarding Jewish people.

UNC Asheville’s chapter of Hillel, a Jewish student life organization, said it was “disappointed” with the decision to invite Mallory, noting that MLK Week represents “an important opportunity to promote the values that Dr. King’s legacy represents, including equality, dignity, and respect for all people.”

“Offering a platform to someone with a track record of divisive views and associations sends the wrong message to our campus community, especially to Jewish students,” the group said, according to the Times of Israel.

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A petition calling on UNC-Asheville to disinvite Mallory has amassed over 3,500 signatures to date and references two of King’s quotes regarding Israel and Jewish people: “The whole world must see that Israel must exist and has the right to exist, and is one of the great outposts of democracy in the world.” 

“Choosing a bigot like Tamika Mallory as a keynote speaker is an insult to Dr. King’s legacy as one of America’s most important civil rights leaders,” the petition, which appears on Stopantisemitism.org, says.

UNC-Asheville Chancellor Nancy Cable and Interim Provost Karin Peterson co-signed a statement that highlighted that “the university’s fundamental principles reject bias in all of its forms including anti-Semitism and discrimination” and that “the university’s invitation to an individual speaker at a university event in no way implies endorsement of that speaker’s comments, critiques, views, ideas, or actions.”

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The two administrators defended the school’s decision to invite Mallory, citing “freedom of thought and expression.”

Mallory failed to respond to multiple requests for comment by Campus Reform in time for publication, as did the UNC-Asheville communications department and Hillel chapter.

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