Rollins College suspended sophomore Marshall Polston on March 24th for daring to challenge his Muslim professor’s claims. Polston pushed back on professor Areej Zufari’s definitive denial of Jesus’ crucifixion and his disciples belief in his divinity.
As a result, the college suspended Polston.
Over the semester, Poston, a Christian, verbally disagreed with his professor during his Middle Eastern humanities class. Polston has traveled to the Middle East and is familiar with the Muslim culture. He told the Central Florida Post regarding Zufari’s actions:
“Honestly, it reminded me of some of the more radical groups I researched when abroad.”
Polston’s suspension letter asserts his “actions have constituted a threat of disruption within the operations of the College and jeopardize the safety and well-being of members of the College community and yourself.”
However, Polston claims they did not have all the details before issuing their punishment.
In an interview with The College Fix, Polston described the full story.
Polston claims the situation began after he challenged Zufari’s assertions about Jesus and his disciples. Polston said this challenge led Zufari to file a complaint with a campus dean, claiming he made her feel “unsafe.”
Next, Polston received a 52 percent on a major essay.
“I was upset, understandably. I’ve never gotten anything less than straight A’s, so I was really interested in figuring out how to possibly improve or at least understand the grade,” Polston told the Post.
After complaining of not feeling safe, Zufari cancelled classes. When they resumed, she engaged the students in a discussion about Sharia Law. A male Muslim student, known for strictly adhering to the Quaran, made some excessive and troubling remarks.
Polston says, “He stated that a good punishment for gays, adulterers, and thieves was the removal of a certain body part, as determined by Sharia law. It took a few seconds for me to realize that he actually said that, especially after what this community has faced with the tragic loss of life at Pulse.”
The comments disturbed several students. However, professor Zufari was unaffected.
The Muslim college professor jokingly responded to the student that he was “in time-out” or something to that effect, and should remain quiet for a few minutes. Several students, of both Islamic and Christian backgrounds, thought the teacher should have reported the incident, but the request fell on deaf ears.
Unintimidated by Zufari, Polston continued to question his professor regarding his essay and the fellow student’s comments.
“I spoke out to the professor about the grade and subsequently the decapitation comments made by the student,” Polston told The Fix. “The statement by the conservative Muslim student met such fear by some that one of the students reported it to the FBI. Later, I was reported by the professor to the dean of campus safety. The situation was surreal. We’ve already had one too many attacks in Orlando and as an avid traveler I realized this was the perfect example of ‘see something, say something.’”
Zufari, for her part, posted on Facebook to the ACLU of Florida, complaining about an unnamed student that is “making my life hell this semester. This one is spewing hatred at me, de-railing class, and just sent me a hateful email threatening me…I want to know if there is a way to hold the individual responsible for his harassment and hate speech. Any ideas? Thank you!”
The suspension letter ordered Polston not to communicate with Zufari. After ignoring the homosexual beheading comments, she instead filed a police report accusing Polston of coming to her classroom, disobeying the suspension order. Polston quickly responded by providing a restaurant receipt and video surveillance stills of his whereabouts during the particular class time. His evidence undoubtedly proves he was at an Orlando restaurant when Zufari claims he showed up at her classroom.
People inundated the college with emails, furious with their actions. After being forced to review all the facts, Rollins exonerated Polston of all allegations. However, Zufari returned to the classroom undisciplined.
Polston hired attorney Kenneth Lewis to help his case. They received word on Thursday that the school lifted the suspension, as they found Polston “not responsible” of the behavior in the allegations.
In a statement last Friday, Lewis commented, “A student’s freedom of speech and expression are the cornerstones of liberty in a free society.”
Additionally, Lewis called for the university to launch a full inquiry into Zufari’s actions.
“After a thorough investigation Rollins College has informed my client, Marshall Polston, that he has been officially exonerated from all charges filed against him by his humanity professor Areeje Zufari,” Lewis’ statement reads. “This decision does not undo the damage sustained to Mr. Polston by these unfounded allegations. He has lived in exile for the past week and will be judged unfairly [because of] Zufari’s malicious assassination of Polston’s character.”
Commenting through her sister Noor Zufari, the professor blamed the incident on “fake news”. After filing a false police report, Zufari is partially correct. There is an element of “fake new” with this story. However, it is not on Polston’s part.
Jesus told his followers, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” (John 15:18) He instructed them to turn the other cheek when persecuted. On the other hand, Christians must defend Christ until their dying breath.
While Christians should always preach the Gospel in love and patience, a victory such as Polston’s feels really good. I pray more Christians find strength in his courage and fight the unabashed suppression of Muslims and liberals.
But that’s just my 2 cents.