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The Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA), a national Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, condemned the University of Southern California Monday for cancelling the scheduled graduation speech by this year’s valedictorian, a Muslim student, for security reasons.

The organization also called on university officials to reverse what the organization characterized in a press release as a “cowardly decision” to hide behind “a disingenuous concern for ‘security.’”

The student, Asna Tabassum, said in a statement that she was being silenced by “anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian voices” waging “a campaign of racist hatred because of my uncompromising belief in human rights for all.”

She added: “This campaign to prevent me from addressing my peers at commencement has evidently accomplished its goal: today, USC administrators informed me that the university will no longer allow me to speak at commencement due to supposed security concerns. I am both shocked by this decision and profoundly disappointed that the University is succumbing to a campaign of hate meant to silence my voice.

“I am not surprised by those who attempt to propagate hatred. I am surprised that my own university—my home for four years—has abandoned me.”

Andrew T. Guzman, USC’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, said in a letter to the campus Monday that university officials had no choice but to cancel the speech after discussions about the selection of the valedictorian had “taken on an alarming tenor.”

“The intensity of feelings, fueled by both social media and the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, has grown to include many voices outside of USC and has escalated to the point of creating substantial risks relating to security and disruption at commencement” he wrote. “We cannot ignore the fact that similar risks have led to harassment and even violence at other campuses.”

He said the decision was made after careful consideration.

“While this is disappointing, tradition must give way to safety,” he wrote. This decision is not only necessary to maintain the safety of our campus and students, but is consistent with the fundamental legal obligation—including the expectations of federal regulators—that universities act to protect students and keep our campus community safe ... In no way does it diminish the remarkable academic achievements of any student considered or selected for valedictorian. To be clear: this decision has nothing to do with freedom of speech. There is no free-speech entitlement to speak at a commencement. The issue here is how best to maintain campus security and safety, period.”