IRVINE, California (CNN) — A controversy that has sparked violent demonstrations across the Middle East and Asia came to a U.S. college campus as a display of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed drew about 200 protesters.
Security was increased for the student forum Tuesday night at the University of California, Irvine, but police reported no violence.
Last week, members of the Muslim Student Union called upon College Republicans — the student group co-sponsoring the event — not to display the images, but the latter refused.
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Another sponsor, the United American Committee, likened the demonstrations to “censorship by terrorism” in a statement on its Web site.
The discussion originally was set to focus on the fight against terrorism, but copies of the cartoons surfaced on campus, and the College Republicans said they decided to include the topic in the program.
The cartoons of Mohammed were published in a Danish newspaper in September, but their reprinting in publications worldwide has sparked violent protests in countries with large Muslim populations, and dozens have died in the demonstrations.
Depictions of Mohammed are prohibited under Islamic law.
The Muslim Student Union’s Osman Umarji accused the evening program of inciting Islamophobia.
“They are discussing Islamic terrorism and how most Muslims are apologists for terror,” Umarji said.
But Kristen Lucero, 21, president of College Republicans, said the discussion was about free speech and an understanding of the origin of Middle Eastern terrorist networks, not an attack on Islam.
Lucero said discussion topics included an examination of Islamic militancy on college campuses and whether some Islamic groups in the United States are apologists for terror.
Marya Bangee, a member of the Muslim group’s board, said, “Displaying the cartoons at U.C. Irvine will only incite hatred against and deeply hurt its Muslim community. We do not believe in any violence.”
Police removed two people from inside the auditorium for disrupting the discussion, but the unidentified men were not members of the Muslim Student Union.