Provost C. L. Max Nikias has approved the deletion of part of a Muslim student group website that hosted religious documents urging Muslims to kill Jewish people. The material was removed from a collection of scriptures known as hadiths, historical sayings of the Prophet Muhammad not included in the Quran. The hadith in question, along with thousands of others, are hosted in their entirety on a USC server as part of the now defunct Muslim Student Association’s website.
Nikias first heard of the hadiths’ phrasing when Rabbi Aron Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human-rights organization, approached USC trustee Alan Casden with his concerns. Hier was troubled by five hadiths advocating Muslim violence against Jews to hasten the coming of the “final hour.”
Members of the Muslim Student Union, which is the dominant Muslim student organization on campus but which is not associated with the MSA, declined to be interviewed, but in a statement, they called Nikias’ actions “unprecedented and unconscionable” and said they amounted to unwarranted censorship. Nikias did not consult the group before he took down the hadith, they said.
“We are outraged at the censorship of a complete religious and classic text without consulting us or any religious authority first,” the group said in the statement. “The ‘compendium’ is now incomplete. There are verses in many religious texts (be it the Torah or the New Testament) that when taken out of context can be taken as offensive.
“USC, as a place of higher education, has prided itself on academic freedom and freedom of speech, and their censorship on this issue is unprecedented and unconscionable. . . . The administration’s actions have gone behind the backs of their students and we have been left in the dark.”