Truman State University could have had a public relations nightmare on its hands Thursday night when the student Republican group tested tolerance levels by inviting Robert Spencer to speak.

Spencer is considered anti-Muslim, as he promotes incidents that portray Islam as the radical face of terrorism while ignoring far greater numbers of Muslims who practice their faith in peace.

But the campus wisely arranged for Faizan Syed, the executive director of the Missouri chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, to speak as well. The vast majority of students who attended wore white in solidarity with peaceful dialogue.

“It was a very civil night,” Syed, of St. Louis, said. “We need to do much more of this.”

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To present a different perspective -- the Muslim Students Association invited Faizan Syed.

He's the director of the Council on American-Islam Relations in Missouri.

Syed presented a history of the Muslim faith and culture -- and reminded the room of the country's history of singling out a certain group of faith to be critical of, while Spencer addressed several examples of why people need to be concerned about Islamic terrorists.

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Truman State spokesman Travis Miles said the university was hoping to create an essay contest and develop “an educational experience” based on the two speeches.

Speaking first will be Faizan Syed, the executive director of the Missouri chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Following him will be Spencer, who has defended himself on his website, writing that if “I am ‘anti-Muslim,’ then foes of the Nazis were ‘anti-German.'”

The College Republicans, which received about $3,000 to bring Spencer to campus from a student committee that allocates funding to student groups, said on Facebook that “unsafe practices will not be tolerated.” The Muslim Student Association also urged calm, requesting that there be no “disruptive protests.”

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The line between free speech and hate speech has become the balance beam that universities across the country have had to tiptoe along for months.

Controversial speakers have sparked protests, some violent, at colleges large and small.


The line is under scrutiny again this week, this time, here in the Heartland.Robert Spencer runs the website "Jihad Watch" and has written 16 books on Islam -- titles including, ‘The Complete Infidel's Guide to ISIS,’ ‘Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World's Fastest Growing Faith,’ ‘The Myth of Islamic Tolerance: How Islamic Law Treats Non-Muslims,’ and ‘Religion of Peace?

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CAIR-MO hosts Creativity & Identity: An American-Muslim Exhibition, St. Louis’ first art exhibition made up entirely of works from local Muslim artists. Faizan Syed, the Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations – Missouri (CAIR-MO), and CAIR Intern Yusra Ali explain how this groundbreaking exhibit came to be.
The show took place on the evening of April 7, 2017 at the 3rd Degree Glass Factory; marking the beginning of what will be an annual event here in St. Louis and may soon become a national campaign.
For more information about this and other upcoming events, visit

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