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Critic of Koran temporarily barred from speaking at Ohio college

By The Associated Press

10.11.01

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus State Community College temporarily barred a Christian evangelist from speaking on campus because of concerns that his criticism of the Islamic holy book would lead to violence.

In recent appearances at Columbus State and Ohio State University, Jed Smock has been criticizing the Koran, the holy book of Islam, for allegedly sanctioning violence. His speeches have offended Muslim students who say Smock is misrepresenting and defaming Islam’s scriptures.

Columbus State police cut short Smock’s appearance last week in a designated free-speech area on campus after an argument with one of the students started heating up. Smock also lacked a speaking permit that campus authorities say is required.

Columbus State President Val Moeller had refused Smock’s request for a speaking permit, saying she feared for Smock’s safety in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

But Moeller decided yesterday to allow Smock to speak on campus under certain guidelines, which had not been determined yet, said college spokesman Pieter Wykoff.

“We are trying to work out a mutual accommodation that will honor his First Amendment rights while [protecting] the safety of the students of the campus,” Wykoff said. “We realize he has his rights to do what he does, but things are different since September 11. We don’t want any violent encounters.”

Megan Wyatt of Westerville, a senior who converted to Islam three years ago, was among those on the Ohio State University campus who said Smock offended her.

“It’s hurtful; it feels like disrespect,” she said. “People are so susceptible to grasp onto anything that portrays Islam as bad.”

She and another Islamic student, Ahmad Abdul-Sattar, a freshman from Egypt, said they thought Smock took Koranic verses out of context and didn’t have the background to interpret them properly.

Smock said he was quoting the Koran to rebut Muslims’ assertion that Islam is peaceful.

“I have to admit that in the Bible you have verses that promote violence and seem cruel, but such verses in the Bible are tempered when you’re told to love your neighbor,” he said.

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