Controversy is brewing at Stanford University over an on-campus event featuring an author known for being a harsh critic of Islam.
An appearance by Robert Spencer, scheduled for Nov. 14, has triggered a petition to rescind funding for his visit to the university.
Spencer is best known for his appearances on Fox News as a self-described expert on radical Islam. But students who are opposed to his appearance at Stanford question his credentials and say he poses a safety concern for the campus.
"By inviting someone like Spencer and calling it free speech, they’re basically saying that hate speech is OK, and it doesn’t really matter how the marginalized students feel," student Fatima Ledha said.
Ledha is with a coalition of Stanford students who met Wednesday night to figure out a response to Spencer’s visit. Some of their concerns include questions about his academic credentials.
"He’s coming under the guise of a scholar," Ledha said. "He’s coming under the guise of someone who’s done a lot of work on this, and he actually doesn’t have any background or formal training on Islam."
"He brings nothing intellectually to this university," student Joshua de Leon said. "Bring in somebody who’s conservative, please. Bring in someone who is a scholar, please. But not this man."
Spencer, who has written several books and runs a blog called "Jihad Watch," said it will be his first Stanford visit, and after a series of violent clashes over free speech across the bay in Berkeley, he’ll be coming with plenty of security.
"The freedom of speech is an indispensable foundation of any free society," Spencer said via an email interview. "There is an ongoing effort to marginalize, demonize and silence anyone and everyone who speaks honestly about the motivating ideology behind the Jihad threat."
Spencer's visit is sponsored by the Stanford College Republicans. The group did not wish to comment about the event.
Editor's Note: While introducing a story on Robert Spencer’s upcoming visit to Stanford, the image on-screen showed controversial “alt-right” speaker Richard Spencer. The use of the wrong image was unintentional. We apologize for the mistake.