Hamas has "done a lot of good" in Palestine, students at a University of California, Irvine program were told last week.
At a speech sponsored by the Muslim Student Union called "What Israeli Going On," Amir Mertaban repeatedly refused to answer when audience members asked if he condemned the terrorist group which now controls Gaza. He called it "a loaded question." Instead, he praised the group's social and political program while rationalizing the issue of its violence.
"Any unjust killing of Israeli civilians I absolutely abhor and Islam does not allow," he said. "However, Hamas has also done a lot of freedom fighting missions for that matter. And I am absolutely one who defends anyone's right, whether you be American, whether you be Jewish, Israeli, Palestinian, to defend your rights. If you feel that you've been attacked wrongfully, and you defend you rights, I will never call you a terrorist."
Mertaban is a former president of the Muslim Students Association (MSA) West and chair of a Southern California program for WhyIslam, an Islamic Circle of North America program dedicated to da'wah, or proselytizing.
His speech was part of a week of programming by the MSU under the banner, "Palestine: An Invisible Nation." The chapter was suspended for the fall semester after school officials determined that 11 students orchestrated disruptions of Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren's speech in February of 2010 and then lied about it. The 11 students involved in the disruption currently face misdemeanor charges.
Later in the speech Mertaban said that he supported the Taliban during the 1980s. "So do I support the Taliban then? That's a loaded question. In the 80s – sure, they were fighting for their rights and for their freedoms. I absolutely support what they were doing then." Mertaban said nothing to condemn the Taliban and did not mention the terrorism that the group has employed since its inception.
That is not necessarily surprising, given Mertaban's past remarks at an MSA event.
During a 2007 MSA-West conference, he suggested Muslims stand by Osama bin Laden even if he had done wrong. "I don't know this guy. I don't know what he did. I don't know what he said. I don't know what happened," Mertaban said."But we defend Muslim brothers and we defend our Muslim sisters to the end. Is that clear?"