- The Washington Times - Friday, August 23, 2002

The essence of free speech is being able to express your opinions, whatever they may be. However, there is no right to be free from the consequences of what you say, nor to compel others to subsidize the expression of your views. This is a lesson soon-to-be-deported University of South Florida Professor Sami Al-Arian is about to learn.

Mr. Al-Arian has been in detention since November 2001, because he is suspected of being linked to terrorist groups. He is not a U.S. citizen, although he does possess a green card. Federal authorities have been interested in Mr. Al-Arian for several years, and have investigated him for, among other things, raising money for radical Islamic groups such as Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. He was even imprisoned for three years on evidence that was never disclosed publicly.

The professor's troubles at the University of South Florida stem from this unsavory background and from egregious comments he made on "The O'Reilly Factor" in the wake of the September 11 attacks. A tape was also shown during the program of the professor at an earlier date shouting "Let us damn America. Let us damn Israel. Let us damn their allies until death." Mind you, this was just a few days after 3,000 innocent Americans had been killed in the worst terrorist act ever perpetrated on U.S. soil.

Understandably, the University of South Florida wanted to fire the professor both for his comments, as well as for the obvious threat his mere presence created for the security of the campus and the safety of the students. But Mr. Al-Arian immediately (and predictably) threatened a lawsuit. His free speech rights were being trampled underfoot, he argued. And then the American Association of University Professors announced it would censure the university if it pursued the matter.

Now the University of South Florida has asked a state judge to intervene and protect the university from what could be an endless and endlessly expensive legal battle.

Given the professor's comments and more so, his apparent involvement in criminal activity in support of murderous terrorists this ought to be quickly granted. Mr. Al-Arian has a perfect right to express his support for terrorists, but not on the University of South Florida's dime. And he certainly has no right to advance the interests of terrorists, or to commit illegal acts, at his employer's expense. Free speech has consequences.

Mr. Al-Arian will be deported to an unnamed Aran country within the next week, according to federal authorities. Bon voyage.

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