Julio Pino, an associate history professor at the Ohio-based Kent State University is under investigation for possible links to the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL). Pino, who has a documented history of extremism, reportedly posted ISIS propaganda pictures on social media and may have been recruiting students for the terrorist group.
Shockingly, Pino is still teaching two classes this semester despite the investigation and his known extremism. Over 20 students have been interviewed and the investigation has been going on for about a year and a half. He has taught there since 1992 and converted to Islam in 2000.
In an interview after the news broke, Pino said he has not broken the law or encouraged anyone else to break the law. He said his freedom of speech should be respected and denied being under investigation or suspicion. When asked if he would say he's a supporter of the Islamic State, he replied, "No, I would not say that."
But his apparent Facebook page tells a different story.
A review of his Facebook page shows a history of troubling postings. His page says he studied "overthrowing the government" at UCLA, a description that could be brushed off as a joke if it weren't for the reams of extremism he expressed.
In a May 2015 thread, he praised "Sheikh Osama" for "kicking off this jihad" but said Al-Qaeda and Al-Qaeda's Syrian wing, Jabhat al-Nusra should now join ISIS. He even portrayed ISIS as merciful towards its prisoners by offering them the chance to repent.
On at least two occasions in 2014, he posted ISIS propaganda photos. He sarcastically wrote underneath one, "Keep it a secret: That's me on the left!"
He also posted propaganda photos of Hamas and young boys armed for jihad:
On February 16, 2014, he commented underneath a picture of him in front of the U.S. Capitol building, "I come to bury D.C., not to praise it."
In a November 2013 thread, he recalled his time in the Arabian Peninsula and how "all I kept thinking about was Palestine and al-Shams and all the other jihad lands." He said a Saudi in Mecca pushed him to leave, saying, "Go, get outta Mecca and just go, cause you look just like a jihadi and you just might be an AQ [Al-Qaeda] member, baby, go! You gotta go go go go go go!"
Kent State and the media have known about Pino's extremism since at least 2002 when he wrote a letter praising a female suicide bomber in Israel as a "shining star." He also asked Allah to "protect the soldiers of Islam fighting in Palestine" and argued that such terrorists should be called "martyrdom bombers."
This isn't even the first time he's come up in a federal investigation. In 2009, the Secret Service confirmed it interviewed him. Two years prior, the school confirmed that he had written for a pro-Al-Qaeda website named Global War.
The website had pictures of a 9/11 hijacker and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, former leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq (the predecessor to ISIS). It described itself with the statement, "We are a jihadist news service, and provide battle dispatches, training manuals and jihad videos for our brothers worldwide. All we want is to get Allah's pleasure. We will write 'jihad' across our foreheads and the stars."
At another point, its homepage had the heading, "The worldwide web of jihad: Provocation, inspiration, and preparation for jihad. Manuals, videos, battle reports, building the Islamic resistance starts here!"
A columnist published what he says is an email from Pino praising the 9/11 hijackers as "martyrs." The school took no action. He continued teaching and the extremism continued.
In 2011, he was again noticed after he shouted "Death to Israel" at a former Israeli diplomat speaking on campus.
On August 2, 2014, the History News Network published a rage-filled letter condemning supporters of Israel in academia as being complicit in the deaths of innocents. It ended with, "Jihad until victory!" The school condemned it as "reprehensible" because "we value collegiality and mutual respect. Assailing the public with broad statements of culpability violates these principles." The statement did not address his call to jihad.
On August 8, 2014, KentWired.com published a threatening letter to the editor addressed to "a child, burnt by fire, in Gaza" that lamented that he's been accusing of supporting terrorism and promising to "avenge" the child's death:
"Forgive me, sister, if words are all I have to offer you today. At home I am accused of stirring hatred, promoting terrorism and maliciously accusing those who seek to harm you. My anger is only for the Evil Minded, and my sole purpose is to enrage the Good Ones of these United States to assemble in order to save you. We are the majority on this planet, not the earth-scorchers. We will protect you. We will avenge you, and our revenge will be your smile on the first day of freedom for Palestine."
Since 2002, Pino has been blatantly expressing support for terrorism while representing Kent State University as a professor. He was presented to class after class as a trusted academic authority they should learn from.
All along the way, Pino has shielded himself by saying it's free speech and that he is merely "explaining why" terrorism happens.
Universities with extremist professors need to ask themselves two serious questions: Is all free speech exempt from disciplinary action, even if it includes incitement to terrorism? And, do your students deserve better?
Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org’s national security analyst, a fellow with Clarion Project and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio. Read more, contact or arrange a speaking engagement.
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